SET on the first Peace Day, in July 1919, Taboo Theatre’s Armistice-marking play, is based on real people who lived in and around a North Dorset town at the end of the Great War.
It will be performed twice at The Exchange at Sturminster Newton on Saturday 10th November, and the FTR had a sneak preview of this very new work at the dress rehearsal.
Sue Ashby and Tony Benge, fresh from the success of On Them Our Lives Depend, their Bourton community play, were commissioned by Taboo to create a play looking at Sturminster’s history.
They took as their model Howard Brenton’s 1977 play Epsom Downs, which introduces its audience to the various characters in fast-moving episodic structure, and to add immediacy, the wide open spaces of the Exchange close in around a thrust acting area, with the audience on three sides.
Most of the script is imagined, but the characters existed. These were times when the bereaved struggled with their losses, the returning soldiers fought their demons or glorified their battlefield performance, and the women, who had spent long years doing men’s’ work resented how they were now relegated to their former roles.
Autocratic landowners were no longer treated like gods and authority was questioned. Rumours of collusion with the enemy separated communities, women’s suffrage was gaining support and life in the rural backwater beloved of Thomas Hardy was never going to be the same again.
As director Craig White says: “They grieved and laughed, celebrated and complained – in fact life carried on, in Sturminster Newton as everywhere else.”
Performing this living snapshot are eight actors, some of whose families were in North Dorset in 1919. Each takes multiple roles in this daring production.
Look out for Giles Henschel’s shell-shocked soldier and Toby Greenfield’s braggadocio. And for Linda Cowley’s crafty old countrywoman, and her celebrated stained glass artist of the Arts and Crafts movement, Mary Lowndes.
The cast also includes Matt Rawson as a green young would-be policeman, Jenny Young as a pacifist and suffragette, Tania White as a bawdy farmer, Annie Henschel as a distraught wife and mother, and Robert Cowley as a rigid and repressed aristocrat.
All this and many more memorable characterisations come from this versatile cast in a production that brings Sturminster in 1919 to vivid life.
The performances start at 3pm and 7.30pm. For more details, phone 01258 475137 or visit the website, www.stur-exchange.co.uk