We Didn't Have Time to be Scared

Looking for emotional charge? If so, this new musical blows everything else out of the water.Austrian sisters Inge and Lucy look back in later life on the upheaval they faced in their childhood during the months before and during World War Two. Inge's diary chronicles the events as the pair are bundled from Nazi-occupied Austria to England, to Trinidad and finally America. New schools, countries and even languages are tackled with the knowledge that bonds of togetherness will see them through. Now imagine that in a less soppy way and you're on the money.A large cast of seventeen fills an average-sized stage, but the movement has been so well directed that this is never an issue. It lends itself also to efficient scene changes and a constant sense of movement and furore.Inspired performances from every member of this astonishingly talented young cast left me stunned. The smallest roles were perfectly conceived and presented, particularly by the one girl who played several adults (teacher, nurse, parent) skillfully.The nuanced and sensitive script, based on a true story, manages to be pacy and tells a lot in a short space of time. Nothing feels compromised and I swear that time is magically manipulated to allow us to learn more.The two distinct personalities of the sisters are ingeniously developed – Inge, the smart and sensible one; Lucy, headstrong and more mischievous. This success is largely due to the acting abilities of the four actresses playing the older and younger sisters (Maia Collier and Julia Newitt as the Inges, Elizabeth Sharpe-Levine and Gloria Fortuna as the Lucys). A real sense of the urgency and later heartbreak of living as a Jewish family during these times is conveyed by the parents, Ernst (Liam Collier) and Liesl (Courtney Naughton), the latter’s solos saturated with feeling.The music is instantly memorable and makes you want to sing along – I've bagged myself a cast recording. The lyrics are expressive, touching and not solely focused on developing the plot, but adding a sense of atmosphere. Together, these make the songs soulful and sentimental, each one hitting the spot.Strong singing is to be heard all round, especially from the leads. The chorus member playing the especially vitriolic schoolgirl deserves her own mention for the additional harmony lines that she alone holds across several songs, as though she had read my mind when I wanted more. Perhaps a couple of songs can be tweaked in this way, but I appreciate that accessibility has been prioritised here.Early on I felt a lump rising in my throat. It lodged itself and wouldn't move: I cried. Then I cried again and later a third time. And it felt good. A sure-fire future hit, I felt privileged to have seen such a beautifully crafted new piece of musical theatre. Never have I ever taken such pleasure in such sombre subject matter – a whole new slant on 'guilty pleasures'. I think I might go and watch this again.

Reviews by Fen Greatley

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The Blurb

An uplifting new musical based on a young girl's diary, chronicling the true story of two sisters as they flee Nazi-occupied Austria searching for a new place to call home.

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