A WREXHAM actress has rehearsed and performed a piece of theatre on film telling the amazing story of women from all walks of life who were drafted to Broughton aircraft factory to build a Wellington bomber in just 30 hours during the Second World War.

Nia Davies remotely rehearsed and filmed the piece How To Build A Plane at her family home in Wrexham under lockdown restrictions, after moving back to the family home at the start of the pandemic in order to care for her mother.

Nia, who trained at the Jacques Lecoq School and has worked for numerous theatre companies including National Theatre Wales and Theatr Clwyd, filmed the piece and her conversations with local contacts whose family members had worked at Broughton.

Nia said: “I had thought, because of lockdown, that it would be a very long time before I would be acting in anything at all, let alone something with such a great subject matter. And this is the first time I have ever been able to play someone from Wrexham, my home town!”

The Leader:

Actress Nia Davies filmed in the family home and garden

The piece is set in 1972 and 1943 and tells the story of Betty. It’s 1972 and Betty is reliving the thrilling time when she was one of a team of factory workers in Broughton, Wales. She’s rushing to build a Wellington Bomber in record time, helping to win the war of words as well as the war in the air. It’s a lot more exciting than her job at the local shop – there’s no way she’ll be going back to the Co-op after this!

The Leader:

Wrexham actress Nia Davies as Betty

Betty’s story is based on the real stories of the women who undertook this amazing feet not far from where Nia filmed the story.

Nia added: “I had to work out a way of filming myself. I became adept at balancing the tablet I was using on books on top of boxes on top of cake tins. I discovered that the metal of the tablet acted as a magnet with the lid of a biscuit tin that I could then lean against books, a hand weight or a glass to get the right angle. A kitchen bar stool that I’d been about to give to the charity shop, became the absolute foundation for my camera tower in most scenes. Seeing myself on the screen before filming was incredibly helpful for composing the scene for the film, but was also quite disconcerting. I would fiddle and preen before a take like Nadal about to serve. But not necessarily with the same devastating result. Getting absolute quiet, even in a quiet house on a quiet street was tricky. There would suddenly be a fleet of motorbikes roaring down the road, or someone would decide to mow their lawn. The kitchen would start to make strange noises, and I would spend ages searching for the source of the sound. Apart from the fridge and the lights, I discovered that the kettle would randomly decide to click spontaneously. Why? For fun? Who knows. Perhaps the objects in the house were starting to have strong opinions of their own as to the quality of my acting.

“Gail, our neighbour, was roped in as camerawoman for the shots in the garden. She asked for a director’s chair and a clapperboard. I could offer her neither, but she did get biscuits. I had to hide most of Mum’s gnomes because they were a bit too contemporary, but I was pleased I could let one have a featured role.

“Throughout it all, my mum was so patient. I would settle her with a cup of tea and a cake and a pile of magazines in the lounge, and say, ‘I’m just going to the kitchen to do the film’. ‘Oh, no problem dear,’ she’d reply. Then when Gail asked her how she was coping, she told her, 'I get put in the corner and told to shut up!'.

“I would put on makeup, costume and hair before helping my mum to get up in the morning. Mum had very strong opinions on all the looks she was subjected to. She wasn’t sure about the blue eyeshadow at all, but she loved the Rosie the Riveter headscarf. She said, 'You look gorgeous. You’re not going to leave me for the world of film, are you?'."

Theatre company Pursued by a Bear launched the play, the second in a series of online plays.

The play was written by acclaimed writer Anna Reynolds.

How To Build A Plane is the second of six short pieces of Theatre on Film created under lockdown conditions. The films are inspired by Nothing on Earth, Anna Reynold’s full-length play for Pursued by a Bear, the autumn tour of which has been postponed due to the Covid-19 crisis. Inspired by the 2016 project/exhibition Hidden Hertfordshire Heroines, the play interweaves stories of historical and contemporary women in a time-travelling tale of female experience.

The film is available to watch on the Pursued By A Bear website: https://pursuedbyabear.co.uk or directly on YouTube