A devastating secret on the Home Front

DORSET writer Devina Symes has adapted her novel, Stronghold of Happiness, set in wartime Dorset, into a play which gets its first performance by the New Hardy Players at the Corn Exchange, Dorchester, on Saturday, 30th September at 7.30pm.

The book and play tell the enduring love story of a couple, Peter and Ella Samways, who both experience life-changing conflict – Ella at home in Dorset and Peter on the battlefront and the consequences of Ella’s trauma. Reunited, their story deals with the aftermath of crisis as they make sense of their changed lives.

An additional thread, which will resonate with many people who know the history of Dorset during the Second World War, is the forced military evacuation of a community from their village home – as happened at the village of Tyneham on Purbeck (and Imber on Salisbury Plain).

The story, which tackles strong themes of abuse that make them unsuitable for a younger audience, begins in 2005 when the older Peter and Ella are invited to watch a rehearsal of their story, which the local drama group has chosen to perform.

Devina Symes says: “I wanted to tell a story that turned the tables on the usual narrative about war and look at the unspeakable traumas and conflicts sometimes experienced by vulnerable women left at home.”

Nuanced writing about the Home Front has become increasingly popular in recent years, with novels including Atonement and Human Voices capturing the traumas, tragedies and complex ethical dilemmas in the lives of women at home. All proceeds from the performance will go to West Dorset Women’s Refuge Welfare Committee.

Harry Cockerill and Tilda Sansom (pictured) will play the young couple, and Barry and Chrissie White will play the contemporary couple.


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