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Cis and Barbiche - a True Love Story of World War II

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by Alison Muirhead (subscribe)
Doting grandmother and grey nomad who should join Volunteers Anonymous and is greatly in favour of a ten day week. So much to do, so little time.
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Can love find a way amidst the horrors of World War Two?
Recently I was a guest at a dinner party when someone remarked that everyone has a story, and each guest in turn related some of their life story. The Perth Group, agelink theatre inc., in Western Australia, has taken this theory to heart and translated it into spell binding theatre. Stories of everyday lives through oral histories are converted to a play script and produced for the general public to enjoy. The first by Jenny Davis was Dear Heart, and one of the audience at that production said to the playwright, "I've got a story," and that is how Cis and Barbiche came to be.

The story is based on letters exchanged in World War II between Barbara (Barbiche) Rigby, a young English woman, and Sergeant Francis (Cis) Usai, a Frenchman stationed in Britain as part of RAF Bomber Command. These letters and Barbara's diary are now housed in the Yorkshire Air Museum.

It is a fourhanded play consisting of three actors and a musician. One of the actors plays many parts, changing swiftly from one character to another with a skilful use of props. The music is a powerful component, and the musician an extremely professional performer who played with soul. It brought back many memories of singing around the piano post-war, with such favourites as Mademoiselle from Armentieres and Kiss me goodnight, Sergeant Major.

The play was an emotional merry-go-round. There were times when I wanted to give Barbara a swift kick. The audience obviously agreed, for when Barbara asked the audience whether she should marry Cis, as one they called out, "YES!" But in our heart of hearts we know she made the right decision. I won't say any more because I will spoil the denouement.

Barbara herself was in the audience at the premiere. She was heard to say loudly that the actor looked nothing like Cis, but at the end of the play she proclaimed, "I fell in love all over again".

As part of the twenty-day celebrations of the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in July, this play, which is such an important part of Britain and France's social history, will be performed at the York Theatre Royal on July 3, 4 and 5. The company will be guests of the Yorkshire Air Museum and Allied Air Force Memorial.

Don't miss this wonderfully engaging theatre event in the year we commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the sacrifices made on D Day 1944.
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Why? To relive the sacrifices of World War Two
When: 7.45pm July 3,4,&5, and 2pm July 5
Where: York Theatre Royal, UK
Cost: Full: 12 pounds; Concession: 10 pounds
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