White Rose flies to the Borders from Taggart

Firebrand Theatre Company's tour of White Rose.
Firebrand Theatre Company's tour of White Rose.

Firebrand’s favourite Lesley Harcourt returns to the Borders in the Hawick-based theatre company’s spring production of White Rose by Peter Arnott.

The former Taggart regular will be joined in the cast by Robert Jack (Jacko in the award-winning BBC comedy Gary: Tank Commander) and Alison O’Donnell, soon to be seen as Douglas Henshall’s co-star in the new BBC 1 drama Shetland.

In the follow-up to their sell-out tour of Iron, starring Blythe Duff, Firebrand’s latest production tells the remarkable story of legendary Russian Second World War fighter pilot Lily Litvak, the first woman to shoot down an enemy aircraft.

The play centres on her romantic relationship with her male squadron leader Alexei (Robert Jack) and her friendship with her female mechanic Ina (Alison O’Donnell) against the background of the carnage of the Battle of Stalingrad.

After appearing in Firebrand’s productions of Talking Heads and David Greig’s Being Norwegian, Lesley said she was delighted to be taking on the role of Lily Litvak.

She describes the female pilot as a “marvellously strong-willed and talented young woman who managed to succeed in a male-dominated environment, while continuing to dye her hair blonde, decorate her cockpit with flowers and to have a delicate white rose painted on her plane’s fuselage every time she shot down a German aircraft.”

Unseen since its premiere at the Traverse Theatre in 1985, White Rose originally featured Oscar-nominated actress Tilda Swinton and Rebus star Ken Stott, and attracted great critical acclaim for its, at times humorous, but always unflinching depiction of men and women at war in the air, on the ground and in the bedroom.

Firebrand’s co-artistic director Janet Coulson said: “We feel proud to be reviving an intensely moving, ambitious and passionate Scottish play which boldly tackles some huge international themes which are as relevant today as ever. And it is even more exciting to take the play back to the Traverse during its 50th anniversary year.”

Writer Peter Arnott added: “I’m looking forward immensely to what an audience today makes of not just the conflict the play is about, but the atmosphere of conflict and optimism in which it was written. Can’t wait!”

White Rose is directed by the award-winning Richard Baron and designed by Scottish Borders based London set designer Edward Lipscomb, while lighting design is by Kate Bonney and AV design by Tim Reid.

Firebrand Theatre Company was founded by Richard Baron, Janet Coulson and Ellie Zeegen in 2010 and creates its work at the £10million Heart of Hawick arts complex. Previous productions which toured the Scottish Borders and beyond include David Mamet’s Oleanna, David Greig’s Being Norwegian and Iron by Rona Munro.

White Rose opens with a preview performance at Tower Mill, Heart of Hawick, on Thursday February 21, followed by two more shows there on Friday, February 22, and Saturday, February 23. White Rose then continues its tour of the Borders at Peebles’ Eastgate Theatre on Friday, March 8, at 7.30pm, and at the Wynd in Melrose from Sunday, March 10, to Tuesday, March 12, at 7.30pm.

For more information, contact the Heart of Hawick at 01450 360688 or www.heartofhawick.co.uk (preview tickets £10, other two £12), or Peebles’ Eastgate Theatre on 01721 725777 or www.eastgatearts.com (tickets £14/U16s £5), or the Wynd, Melrose at 01750 725480 or www.borderevents.com (tickets £12).