Tron Theatre, Glasgow
When Peter Arnott's play about a squadron of Second World War female
fighter pilots premiered at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre in 1985, the
notion of powerful women, and indeed women in power, was very much part
of the agenda. More than a quarter of a century on, and the true story
of Lily Litvik, who marked her kills with white roses on her
aeroplane's tail, remains a fascinating look at a piece of hidden
history, as well as a metaphor for a gender war that continues.
It opens with Lily and her engineer friend Ina drafted in to sex up
recruitment films. It ends with Lily grounded for a final time.
Inbetween we see Lily square up to an all-male world without
compromising her faith in a greater cause. Lesley Harcourt's Lily is a
driven young woman who knows what she wants and usually gets it. When
that comes to her flight commander Alexei, the age-old ideological
contradictions between the personal and the political come to the fore
as even love becomes part of the struggle.
Richard Baron's long overdue revival of the play for the Borders-based
Firebrand company flits between intimate naturalistic exchanges, and
more choreographed out-front addresses from Alison O'Donnell's Ina and
Robert Jack as Alexei that resemble heroic social-realist posters come
to life. The projections onto Edward Liscomb's set of symmetrical steel
lockers flanking the stage add to the effect.
Seen today, White Rose is a play that looks back twice, first to the
play's setting, as well as to when it was written. Crucially, both were
periods in history when revolution seemed possible. For Lily, alas, the
romantic adventure was over all too soon.
The Herald, February 28th 2013