World War One ripped a chasm between combatants and civilians. While the home-front indulged in jingoism, a catastrophe unfolded in the trenches. This divide haunts HookHitch’s This was the World and I was King. Utilising live music, puppetry and a well-written script, the play tells the story of a young family who move from home to avoid the war. Their father at the front and without his incandescent mind to entertain them, the children construct their own world of fantasy and adventure.
Well performed and staged in a room which couldn’t have suited it more, this production is an embracing experience. The simple puppets are wielded with skill, captivating the youngest audience members, but it’s what’s going beneath view that’s interesting. The children (from the uppermost circle of society) have left modernity to live in a country manor. They dream of feudal ceremonies and pseudo-colonial expeditions while their uncle implores them to grow up, the reality being that the war sounds the death knell for their class. When their father is invalided home, his contact with this truth has destroyed his once powerful imagination. Not so much an anthem for doomed youth as an dirge for Edwardian Britain.