‘Blue Remembered Hills’ was originally written for television in 1979 before the writer, Dennis Potter, created a stage version in 1984. Potter based the storyline on his nostalgic views on childhood and the transition from infancy to adulthood. The play is set in the West Country during World War Two, where seven children have been evacuated. The audience gains an insight into a child’s life in the 1940s and how the individual and very different characters interact with each other. The play ends tragically with the death of Donald, a child abused by his mother and tormented by the other children.
‘A Memory of Lizzie’ is based on the famous trial in American history where Lizzie Borden was accused of killing her stepmother and father on the 4th of August, 1892. One of the main factors of the play that makes it so original is that it was written to portray Lizzie Borden’s potential character and how she interacted with other people as a child. By creating a younger version of the murderess, the audience can see how this cruel and very much neglected child came to commit such horrific murders. The play is set in an American school playground in the 1870s and focuses on how the children react to Lizzie and vice versa.
One of the main similarities between the two plays is that the cast of the play are children, although in Blue Remembered Hills adults act out the roles of the seven children. A theme conveyed through both plays is that of bullying and social rejection. Lizzie is ridiculed by the remainder of the group possibly because the group’s jealousy of her family’s wealth or perhaps her need for attention as a result of the absence of attention at home from her stepmother. However, Donald is isolated from the group mainly because of his physical appearance. . He is described by Potter to be “splay-footed, timid, anaemic-looking boy”. Although callously, the children use the fact that he is abused by his mother as another route of inflicting anguish on him.
Both of the central characters, Donald and Lizzie, have a very distant relationship with their mothers; or in Lizzie’s case – her stepmother. The children in ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ speak of Donald’s mother’s unconventional lifestyle, “Our mam says her’s a bit of a thing… Something to do with the sheets”, yet Donald does not once bring her into conversation as he fears her; and becomes reclusive when any one of the children begin to taunt him about her. However, Lizzie is very open about her hatred for her stepmother “All stepmoms are evil”.
Both plays deal with the theme of murder and each of the writers use minor events as a significant premonition of the horrific events that are to occur. ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ shows the boys murdering an innocent squirrel for the amusement, yet it leads the manslaughter of Donald at the end. ‘A Memory of Lizzie’ in its entirety is a premonition of what Lizzie will come to perpetrate. The slaughter of Rachel’s doll at the end of the play shows prominent signs of how this potential to commit such a murder would intensify.
There is, however, a significant difference between these two cases of death; the children in Blue Remembered Hills felt remorse for the manslaughter of Donald and were almost in denial that it had even happen, yet Lizzie felt no sense of wrong-doing in the slaughtering of the doll and is portrayed to the audience as though she felt she achieved something from it. However the other characters isolated themselves from her behavior once the realization came upon them of what a twisted thing she was doing. This is very different to ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ as all the children were to blame for Donald’s death as they all were a part of the ‘joke’.
The lifestyles of the children in the plays are very diverse. The children of ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ are living at the time of the war; so the preponderance of the children’s games and talk revolved around the fear and excitement of the war. They also use the concept of war as a basis of their entertainment, particularly when the klaxon sounds and instead of returning home, they decide to hide in case the “prisoner of war” they created in their imaginations comes looking for “English blood” The children also take on the mannerisms of their parents, particularly when they are playing house in the Barn and Angela is imitating her mother.
On the other hand, Lizzie Borden appears to be of a higher class than the other children because of her family’s wealth, ‘Just ‘cos she’s a Borden – thinks she owns the whole place.’ Lizzie uses her wealth as a way of gaining power and often trys to control the other children. The other characters feel particularly degraded and insulted by this, “Just like we was your servants or something”