My Solo Shows

War Baby

And now for something completely different!

War Baby

In 2007 I decided to put together another solo show, but on a more serious vein. I'd been thinking about doing this one for a while, ever since I'd taken a look at my 'Baby's Diary' one evening. I realised then that it was rather special, as it told a real-life WW2 story, but with a difference. My mother, Pat had recently died and I wanted to do this as a tribute to her memory.

The diary is basically a scrapbook with photos, press clippings, letters and other mementoes added. Of much more interest however, is the personal letters that both my mother and father wrote for me over a period of years.

My father, a conscientious objector, writes about the war effort with his anger, sadness and frustration spilling out of the pages: "On all sides people congratulate us on our courage in producing you at this time, which is in itself a sign of the death that is in the heart and soul and mind of mankind just now... premature death is coming to millions for no good reason... under the blast of war the flames of hate and unreason are spreading; there is more lying, more deceit; there is less goodness in the heart of mankind, less opportunity and less urge to search after truth. In the face of all this you are born."

My mother, being more of an optimist, writes of happier things. Like me, she was also a model and worked at the film studios doing walk-ons and stand-ins. "I do an odd spot of film work occasionally. At 30 I'm still a glamour-girl and expect to start work soon on a film called 'Caravan' with the newest heart-throb Stewart Granger."

And then, there is my own growing up story. I was put to work as a model quite early. Aged one, my mother writes "You have started working for your living! Two publicity jobs in two weeks, meaning two guineas for Mummy. Daddy says he will be able to give up work soon and live on your earnings."

My parents were very much in love at the start of the diary, but sadly, my father leaves us to fend for ourselves during the London Blitz. We all survived however!

PRESENTATIONS

War Baby is performed as a dramatized reading with slides, audio, video, music accompanist and a little song too. I use to always read both my mother and father roles in the beginning. It was first presented at the Brighton Festival in a hotel and several more times in and around Brighton in pubs, cabaret venues and once in a church hall. I later took it to the Llangollen Festival in Wales. In 2014, I was asked to do it as part of the 'Shoreham Wordfest'. For the first time, I found a lovely actor, Marcus Hutton to read my father's role and that worked better than ever.

Each time I perform it, I realise that I could take it further... and I finally did in 2013 when it was done as a radio play on Resonance Radio, London. This time, my father was voiced by actor, Bruce Montague and I, as usual, voiced my mother. But I know there's much more can be done with it and I hope to turn it into a play one day.


REVIEWS

From ThreeWeeks Reviews - Theatre and Musicals

WAR BABY - Carol Cleveland in association with Icarus Theatre Collective

"The ways in which individual destinies merge with a country's larger history is charmingly explored by Carol Cleveland in this dramatised reading of her 'Baby's Diary'. Presented to her on her eighteenth birthday, the book contains touching letters by her parents, begun at her birth and covering roughly the duration of the Second World War. The lovingly chronicled personal observations contrast sharply with the harsh realities of the war raging outside of the family unit, and her father's pacifist mindset seems to have made its way into the show through slides which connect past horrors with current ones. Accompanied by musical interludes which provoke nostalgic nods of recognition from the audience, her story is one of some pretty special parents living in extraordinary times."
Belgrave Hotel, 18 - 19 May 2007

Review by J.N.


From Brighton Fringe Review website.

Low Down

An informative and moving account of a family at war.

Review by Caron McNish 18 May

"In this dramatised reading of 'Baby's Diary', the audience is successfully taken back to a bygone era. Set during the second World War; Carol Cleveland is the War Baby telling the story of her parents through diary extracts written to her by them just before her birth and continuing until she reached the age of 5. After a slightly rushed introduction (which I put down to nerves) Carol's delivery was evocative of the time and I felt I really was hearing her mothers voice.

The characters of both her parents came across clearly in both the writing and the way they were portrayed, especially when her father - a conscientious objector who spent time in prison for his convictions - appears on film, talking about the futility of war. At one point, Carol read an extract from her mother that was extremely moving and quite unexpected which clearly stirred up feelings in the audience.

For most of the performance, Carol was sat in a chair with a standard lamp. While this worked, I would like to have seen the lights in the room turned off. The lamplight itself would have created a more dramatic and inimate atmosphere. The use of a projector and slides, I believe, could have been used to greater effect and a live musician playing keyboards, although well played, occasionally distracted from the flow of the piece. Despite the above shortcomings, it was an engaging and moving evening, that deserved a larger audience."

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