They say there’s no rest for the wicked. We’re still not sure of the crimes Caroline Lamb, Elka Lee Green and Helen Parry have committed, but only a couple of days after zipping back down the motorway following our production of Shirley in the Yorkshire Dales, they were setting to work on another intense project! Luckily for them, it was a pretty fantastic one.
The seeds were sown for Theft of a Girl a few months back, when we were awarded a commission from Creative Industries Trafford, who had struck up a partnership with the National Trust‘s exciting new venture known as “Trust New Art” – a branch of the charity that forms bridges between independent artists and National Trust places. Their upcoming project was Live at Lyme, and they were looking for artists and performers to create pieces inspired by the Regency period that would be shown around the beautiful and expansive Lyme Park estate in Cheshire – and within the walls of the grand house that presides over its grounds – throughout September.
The story of Ellen Turner – a schoolgirl from a wealthy family who was kidnapped and duped into marrying a much older man under false pretences – immediately sprung out at writer Caroline, and she composed a simple, atmospheric monologue to be performed in the nursery of the house, accompanied by a stop motion video. Once the commission was secured, Caroline and filmmaker Morag Hickman set out to Lyme Park armed with thirteen-inch artists’ mannequins painted in matte black and adorned with a variety of hats, and a delicate poseable doll in regency dress to painstakingly craft a film over two days.
The film completed and beautifully edited by Morag (who incidentally makes stunning jewellery too!), the project was put on hold while we staged Shirley. Caroline, Elka and Helen then regrouped to prepare the monologue.
On the weekend of the performances, the weather was beautiful and the trip to lovely Disley by train was swift. Lyme Park looked regal in the morning light, but we had little chance to wander around – Elka was straight into costume, and we hurried to the nursery for the first performance at 11.30am. Three more performances followed that day, and four the next. The room was packed, with audience members huddling up on the little iron-framed bed and clustering around the fireplace at the back. There was a hushed buzz in the nursery, which was thrilling.
We experience lovely feedback, and truly enjoyed our experience with Creative Industries Trafford and the National Trust. If “Trust New Art” can afford creatives like us the opportunity to work in places steeped in such rich and intriguing history as Lyme, and continue to introduce new audiences to theatre and art, then we hope the scheme goes on for many years!