War-time love story revealed

Jo Morris and Mark Desebrock appear in the adaptation of Cis and Barbiche, based on a true story.
Jo Morris and Mark Desebrock appear in the adaptation of Cis and Barbiche, based on a true story.

It was after a performance of Dear Heart last year, based on her aunt’s letters from World War II, that Davis was approached by 89-year-old Barbara Harper-Nelson who emigrated from England 50 years ago.

‘I’ve known Barbara for a very long time and she said she’s always meant to speak to me about the letters she had,’ Davis said.

‘I didn’t expect them to be so amazing but after only reading the first two, I phoned her and said we had to do something with them at once.’

The letters, and Barbara’s diary, follow the Liverpool love affair she had with French airman Francis Usai, from 1944-46.

It includes their meeting, his plane being shot down, his recovery from injury and the difficulties their relationship faced post war.

‘She was studying French at university and was invited to be in the welcoming committee when these boys landed to fight alongside the RAF,’ Davis said.

‘They’d never met anybody quite like each other; it was the attraction of opposites.

‘Barbara says it is a time for her when the world is brightly coloured, which is quite bizarre to us because you think of it as being a dreary time, but it was their youth.’

Davis said some of the letters had parts cut out by the censor, which acted as a reminder that someone else read all of the Frenchman’s private thoughts first.

‘And now they’re being heard by everybody which is lovely,’ she said

After a short Perth season, Jo Morris and Mark Desebrock will bring the romance to life in Cis and Barbiche at Don Russell Performing Arts Centre on April 16. It will then tour to York Theatre Royal in July as part of an Anglo-French series of events to celebrate the Grand Depart of the Tour de France from the northern England city.