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First World War centenary: Community musical Paper Planes is a joy to watch and triumphantly celebrates the life of Sutton’s Farm pilot William Leefe Robinson

18:28 31 July 2014

The cast performing. [Picture: Mark Sepple for Queen

The cast performing. [Picture: Mark Sepple for Queen's Theatre]

Mark Sepple 2014 submitted by Queen's theatre July 2014

“We are humans in the wrong time.” This sentiment portraying the loss and heartbreak incurred by the First World War is a central theme in Queen’s Theatre’s spectacular Paper Planes, which tells the life story of Sutton’s Farm aerodrome pilot William Leefe Robinson.

A plane at the theatre to mark the musical taking placeA plane at the theatre to mark the musical taking place

The community musical begins with Robinson’s childhood as a naughty schoolboy and then as a student at St Bees School in Cumbria, where he, his brother Harold and their friends are a band of brothers in their Seagull Club.

But the young men are separated when they enlist for the war, with Robinson becoming a pilot.

The musical really gets into its stride here, with Robinson’s friendship with fellow pilots Frederick Sowrey and Wulstan Tempest touching and entertaining.

But the show jumps between highs and lows, with the palpable frustration of the pilots at the Zeppelins’ domination of the skies, their ecstasy when Robinson is the first British pilot to shoot one down and Robinson’s horror at being a prisoner of war.

The cast in rehearsalsThe cast in rehearsals

There are also some highly-charged emotive moments, such as when the pilot’s old friends come back to haunt him, singing as they fall dead one by one.

A fictional romance between Robinson and an East End girl is great fun and every song is engaging and brilliantly performed.

The 65 cast members, residents aged between seven and 80, are enthusiastic and talented and the homemade props are brilliantly executed.

The final scenes return to the theme of loss, with Robinson’s indomitable spirit finally put down when he contracts the deadly Spanish influenza.

A display of paper planes at the theatreA display of paper planes at the theatre

Paper Planes is a joy to watch and perfectly commemorates hero Robinson and the centenary of the First World War.

Read more:

First World War: Heroic Hornchurch pilot celebrated in new play

First World War centenary: The pilots who worked to thwart the Zeppelin threat at Sutton’s Farm aerodrome

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