Surreal way of life lost forever

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Swallows and Amazons - Grand Theatre, Blackpool

AS the years tick by and technology allegedly marches “on” it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine or recall a time when summer holidays lasted what seemed like forever and children played out together with not an adult to be seen for miles.

This first of 11 Swallows and Amazons novels by Arthur Ransome is set in the Lake District he spent his own childhood holidays in and where he returned after working as a journalist and double agent for MI6 and Russia, being branded by the New York Times as “the mouthpiece of the Bolsheviski” and as “Red Ransome” narrowly avoiding prosecution under the defence of the Realm Act.

All a far cry from the idyllic world he creates for the awfully nice Blackett and Walker children to set sail in their Swallow and Amazon dinghies to create a fantasy world of full of pirates, harpies, hidden treasures and happy endings.

Set in the between-war year of 1929, it has its roots in the pastoral Utopia of Edwardian England and makes Enid Blyton’s Famous Five seem like working class oiks. It’s a world where absentee “daddy” sends a telegram telling them not to be “duffers” and where mum can offer a penknife rather than an I Pad as a reward for learning to swim – and nobody sniggers at a child named Titty.

This Children’s Touring Partnership in association with the The National Theatre certainly knows how to stage an impressive production but it’s all quite surreal.

It’s the sort of thing parents wish their children would read or watch but until the computer game version comes out they’re on a loser.