They made a welcome return to Springhead at Fontmell Magna on Sunday 18th October with King’s Shilling, a folk-drama which told the touching stories of a number of ordinary men and women who fought for king and country. The company, which concentrates on presenting local stories together with locally sourced music and relatively local people, all very Springhead, drew on personal diaries and other contemporary accounts while using poetry and songs from the time – folk song, parlour ditties and popular tunes – to complement and amplify the extraordinary tales they uncovered.
The performance, which was delightfully relaxed and informal, took place in the convivial surroundings of the Mill Room at Springhead, and concentrated on the lives and careers of four local characters – ordinary folk who, as a result of war, found themselves in extraordinary situations. These are people who have not left buildings or other great memorials, but only their songs and stories for us to remember them by. Sergeant William Lawrence, for example, who, for about ten years, fought as a British soldier, mainly against the French, before settling down and opening a pub in south Dorset. He clearly loved his time as a soldier and the charming song, with words written by one of last nights’ performers, Sophie Wright, and set to a traditional tune was, for me, one of the highlights of the evening.
Throughout the performance we were presented with many fascinating little bits of information. I was particularly taken with one such nugget in connection with Rifleman Benjamin Harris, who grew up in nearby Stalbridge. He served in the Peninsular War and from his writings we learned that those wives allowed to accompany their husbands were selected by nothing more sophisticated than a lucky dip! Among the songs used to illustrate his career was The Bonny Light Horseman which again featured the haunting voice of Sophie Wright, this time further enhanced by a lovely fiddle descant from Steve Sutton and some delicate keyboard improvisations from Richard Wirdnam.
Other highlights of the evening were the Pomperlarie Jig which concluded the first half, and in which we were encouraged to participate (singing not dancing I hasten to add), Steven Sutton’s darkly humorous rendition of the traditional song My Son John and Richard Wirdman’s setting of Kipling’s famous poem Tommy Atkins.
A few well-chosen props and items of clothing added greatly to the visual appeal and although the evening was “local” anyway, it was given further poignancy when the names of those commemorated on the Fontmell Magna war memorial were announced and when performer Robin Plowman read the obituary, from the Christchurch local paper, of one of his ancestors killed during the Great War.
We were a relatively small audience, probably no more than thirty, but it was evident that we had all come out to enjoy ourselves. This we did in no small measure. Time and Tide are to be congratulated on researching and compiling such an engaging programme, and one that was delivered with such sincerity and professionalism. Details of further performances can be found on their website: www.timeandtidetheatre.co.uk.
King’s Shilling itself was just one of a number of events promoted by the enterprising folk at Springhead. Full details of their autumn programme can be found at www.springheadtrust.co.uk