946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Carol Kaufman Segal
946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips is an energetic musical based on the popular book by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo. The play is an adaptation by Morpurgo and Emma Rice based on true events that occurred during World War II. It is a presentation by Kneehigh (a theatrical company in England) in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Berkley Repertory Theatre playing at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
The play begins in the present with the death of Grandpa, after which Grandma Lily brings out her diary to relate her story to her Grandson Boowie (Adam Sopp). In a flashback, it then takes place in a small British town where a spoiled 12-year-old Lily (Katy Owen) lives with her mother and grandfather while her father is away fighting in the war against the Germans.
The war has created a lot of changes in the town. There are new people there who have fled other areas due to the war such as Madame Bounine (Emma Darlow), the new teacher who arrived after fleeing France following the Nazi invasion. Some have lost family members such as Barry (Adam Soppm), whose father was killed at Dunkirk.
However, nothing seems to have changed for Lily. She keeps occupied with Tips (a very realistic puppet (made by Lyndie Wright and Sarah Wright), her much-loved cat. That is, when she is not causing trouble somewhere. However, things change considerably when allied soldiers arrive in town to conduct secret exercises to prepare for D-Day, (the first day of the Normandy Invasion). The residents are made to move inland, and in the process, Lily is unable to find Tips.
When she realizes that Tips is missing, Lily commandeers two African American soldiers, Adi (Ncuti Gatwa) and Harry (Nandi Shebhe) to aid in the search for the feline, and their friendship is formed. Before the invasion is to occur, a D-day rehearsal known as Operation Tiger, is scheduled and unfortunately, the rehearsal erupts into a tragedy in which 946 service men are killed. The effect of this disaster has a profound effect on Lily as well as Adi and Harry.
Playwright Emma Rice directs this very unusual production that features an astounding set, a plane on which a real live swing band rests on a platform on top (set and costumes by Lez Brotherston). Music (some well-known, some new by Stu Barker) and dance (choreographed by Emma Rice and Etta Murfitt) are integrated throughout the play. The marvelously talented company members play every which role. I could scarcely believe that 12-year old Lily was, in fact, played by a 32-yer old actress!
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Art is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills. 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, continues Tuesday through Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and 7 PM, and the final Sunday, March 5, at 2 PM and 7 PM. Tickets are available online at TheWallis.org, by phone at (310) 746-4000, or at the theatre box office.