The Barn Theatre in Cirencester has a reputation for putting on well-produced, brilliantly acted and thoroughly entertaining small-scale plays and musicals and Waiting For Anya is certainly no exception.

Its latest offering is a stage adaption of the 1990 Carnegie Shortlisted novel of the same name, which has also been turned into a movie which was released in 2020.  

Waiting For Anya tells the story of young sheep farmer Jo Lalande, and the small French village he lives in as he and his family attempt to navigate the dangerous trappings of the Second World War.

Jo quickly finds himself embroiled in the efforts of a nearby widow to shepherd Jewish children safely to the border and away from German soldiers hunting them, putting his life and the lives of his father, grandfather, and mother in danger.

The story was recreated by a sparse team of actors and actresses, and an even more sparse minimalist set design and props. Farming equipment is used creatively to conjure up animals, with birds, sheep, and even a fierce bear cleverly brought to life by hay bales, buckets and spades.

And a series of simple platforms moved back and forth helped to create the mountainous region the story takes place, and the long distances the characters must travel within the story. It's ingenious and really works. 

Jack Heydon gives a strong performance as the lead. He captures the innocent youth of Jo Lalande perfectly and imbues in him a childish warmth, a kind-heartedness and yet perhaps possibly a little naivety as well.

His fellow cast members all give excellent performances as well, with one dotting between a comedic priest and a menacing German soldier with aplomb, and another managing to make one of the German soldiers, Corporal Wilhelm, cut a sympathetic figure.

But, while the pacing is mostly fine, I felt the play’s conclusion felt a little rushed, it wasn’t exactly clear what had happened as the villagers enact their daring plan to smuggle the children away from German hands in plain sight, and there isn’t really time to do so before the whole thing is over.

The Barn Theatre is no stranger to adapting Morpurgo works for the stage, as it took on the Mozart Question in its 2022 season, to rave reviews, and Waiting For Anya has continued the theatre’s trend of nailing these adaptations. It’s well worth a watch!

Tickets are available here: