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Theatre / Blue Remembered Hills

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Originally a 1979 British TV play by Dennis Potter, Blue Remembered Hills has become a staple of student drama productions, particularly in the UK.

Set in the Forest of Dean area of the English countryside in the middle of WW2, the play follows seven children (played by adults) - Willie, Peter, John, Raymond, Angela, Audrey and Donald - over the course of a summer afternoon. They play, argue, fight, and struggle to understand the adult world and its issues. However, a childish prank causes the day to end in a horrific tragedy.


The title comes from a poem which is recited at the end of the play, and by Dennis Potter himself in the TV version. It's often linked with Lord Of The Flies as a thorough deconstruction of the Children Are Innocent trope.

This play provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Donald's mother.
  • Adult Fear: Your child goes off to play one day and comes home in the evening traumatised after seeing (and causing) one of their classmates' death in a fire. For that matter, your child dying in a fire with no one able to save them.
  • Adults Are Useless: Though no adults ever appear in the play, it's clear from the children's conversations that several are aware of the abuse Donald is suffering from and are unwilling to offer any help. The complete absence of adults - even around the barn - subconsciously invokes this trope.
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  • Badass Boast: Peter can barely go five minutes without making one.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": When Donald, Angela and Audrey are playing House together. Can often edge into Black Comedy territory.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Zig-zagged. Angela is often stated to be much more attractive than Audrey and is generally much nicer as well. However, she certainly indulges in her fair share of nastiness towards Donald.
  • Berserk Button: Calling Donald "Donald Duck" or "Quack Quack"; implying Peter isn't the best at something (unless the best happens to be Wallace Wilson. Then Peter is second best).
  • Blatant Lies: Played for drama. "I wasn't there. I was miles away."
  • Break the Cutie: Happens to all the children by the end.
  • The Bully: Peter and Audrey.
  • Butt-Monkey: Donald. Also Raymond to a lesser extent.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Donald's matches.
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  • Children Are Innocent: Despite often being seen as a deconstruction, the trope itself is surprisingly zig-zagged throughout the play. The children's actions are certainly not innocent, but they are too innocent to fully understand anything much about the war, or the extent of Donald's numerous home issues.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The play is set in 1940s England, so casual racism towards Germans, Italians and Japanese abounds. The children also repeatedly refer to smoking cigarettes, asking each other if they've got any. Then there's all the bullying...
  • Downer Ending: Donald has burned to death and the others all resolve to keep quiet about their parts in it.
  • Dying for Symbolism: Happens twice:
    • The squirrel early on which also counts as foreshadowing;
    • And Donald at the end. Both deaths symbolise the children's loss of innocence.
  • Foreshadowing: As noted above, the scene of Peter, Willie, Raymond and John knocking a squirrel out of a tree and killing it.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: John is Sanguine; Peter (and Audrey to a lesser extent) are Choleric; Donald is Melancholic; Willie and Raymond are Phlegmatic.
  • Full-Name Basis: Wallace W Ilson.
  • Half-Hearted Henchman: Willie spends a good deal of the time being this to Peter.
  • Heel Realisation: Zig-zagged. Peter displays flashes of this while he's talking with Donald in the barn. Ultimately he ends up ignoring it. Then the six surviving kids all go through this right at the end...and again ultimately ignore it.
  • Hidden Depths: Peter is a rude and arrogant bully...but he's also the only one we see who actually tries to reach out to Donald.
  • Hobbes Was Right
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: From the realistic bullying behaviour of the kids to the wartime setting to Donald's mother physically abusing him, this play definitely gives off this feeling.
  • Implausible Deniability: Displayed in a frankly chilling fashion at the very end.
  • Innocently Insensitive: All the kids (bar Audrey) have moments of this. Surprisingly, Peter's entire conversation with Donald seems to be built on Peter being this - he doesn't appear to take the "Donald Duck" name as maliciously as the others, Donald seems to truly connect with him, and Peter immediately apologises after mentioning Donald's Disappeared Dad and arguably spends the rest of the time attempting to make it up to him.
  • Large Ham: All the kids have their moments, especially whenever they're playing. Peter and Donald take the cake though.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Averted. Even the most decent of the children partake in the various instances of bullying and violence.
  • It Gets Easier: A variation. The children don't mean to contribute to Donald's death, but there's no doubt the squirrel incident paved the way for it...
  • Karma Houdini: We never see what happens to the kids when the adults inevitably discover what's happened...
  • Kids Are Cruel: To the point where this may as well have been called: "Kids Are Cruel: The Play".
  • Meaningful Name: The kids all draw correlations between Donald and the duck of the same name. It sets him up as a perfect target for bullying.
  • Murder by Mistake: The other children only meant to pull a prank and scare Donald by not letting him out of the barn and pretending to be an escaped Italian POW. They didn't realise Donald had lit a fire inside until it was too late for him to get out.
  • Not So Different: Despite John and Peter being at odds with each other for much of the play over their respective leadership styles (Peter is a bully while John is fair), and even end up physically fighting, they join forces more than once and share responsibility for the two deaths that occur.
  • Oh, Crap!: Happens several times: when the boys are done kicking the squirrel to death, from the main group when Peter and John pull a prank on them to scare them, from Donald when the others trap him in the barn and the fire starts spreading, and finally from the others when they see Donald through the fire.
  • Parachute in a Tree: Peter replicates this when he first appears.
  • Parental Abandonment: Not exactly "abandonment", but none of the kids' parents appear at all and the ones that are spoken of most are the ones away at war. The biggest example is probably Donald with his father in a Japanese POW camp and his mother physically abusive.
  • Primal Fear: The siren from the POW camp gets this reaction from the kids. Also Donald's reaction to the fire at the end.
  • Psycho Supporter: Audrey to Peter.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Peter and John; Audrey and Angela
  • Running Away to Cry: Peter does this after he loses his fight with John.
  • Scenery Dissonance: Type 1. The play takes place in the relatively calm and peaceful English countryside - specifically an (apparently) deserted farm and the surrounding woodland.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Willie and Peter; Donald and Peter; Raymond and anyone else.
  • Shout-Out: The title is one to an A. E. Housman poem which itself is recited at the end:
    Into my heart an air that kills
    From far yon country blows.
    What are those blue remembered hills,
    What spires, what farms are those?
    That is the land of lost content,
    I see it shining plain.
    The happy highways where I went,
    And cannot come again.
  • Sliding Scale of Cynicism vs. Idealism: Firmly on the cynical end of the scale.
  • Small, Secluded World: Naturally.
  • The Sociopath: Audrey definitely shows signs of this. She's the first to suggest potential violence or general nastiness in response to any given situation and she wastes no time in picking on anyone she can. She also, unlike Peter, never displays even a hint of a Heel Realisation.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In the televised version, the happy-sounding theme which has been associated with the children playing is played again at the end over footage of what remains of the barn burning and collapsing. And this is just after we've seen one child burn to death, the others all agree to keep quiet about their involvement (and sobbing), and heard the melancholy Title Drop poem recited.
  • Survival Mantra: "If it doesn't catch this time, the Japs have won!"
  • Team Mom: Angela to a certain degree. She's probably the most responsible of all the children. Unfortunately, she's still just a 7 year old...
  • Title Drop: You have to wait to the very end for it though.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Audrey and Angela.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Donald displays this in spades. Then again, it's hardly surprising...
  • True Companions: Zig-zagged. The children fight and argue and pick on each other a lot, but it's clear that (with the exception of Donald) they're all quite good friends.
  • The Unseen: All the adults mentioned, and Wallace Wilson.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Donald's mother.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Wallace Wilson seems to be seen as this In-Universe, at least by the other children. The kids all attempt to come off as this but fail miserably.


Example of: