Theft of a Girl

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.

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Picture © Jason Lock Photography +44 (0) 7889 152747 +44 (0) 161 431 4012 info@jasonlock.co.uk http://www.jasonlock.co.uk

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.

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Picture © Jason Lock Photography +44 (0) 7889 152747 +44 (0) 161 431 4012 info@jasonlock.co.uk http://www.jasonlock.co.uk

The film completed and beautifully edited by Morag (who incidentally makes stunning jewellery too!), the project was put on hold while we staged ShirleyCaroline, 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.

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Picture © Jason Lock Photography +44 (0) 7889 152747 +44 (0) 161 431 4012 info@jasonlock.co.uk http://www.jasonlock.co.uk

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!

Theft of a Girl

After Shirley

Tackling some pretty massive challenges in a very tight space of time appears to be a habit of ours! Shirley may just have been our most ambitious project yet.

full cast serious.JPG

Shirley – the first ever performance adaptation of the Charlotte Brontë novel – has been in the company’s repertoire since we presented a very successful reading of it at the Morley Arts Festival last year – but this time was different. We’d been invited by Carol Nelson of Farfield Mill in the picturesque village of Sedbergh, Cumbria, to bring it to the wonderful industrial-base-turned-arts centre in the form of a promenade. The action would be woven throughout the building; around looms, underneath the building itself in the turbine room and even spread along the walkways leading up to the entrance – so, over an intense few months, the original piece was adapted to fit the new formula and the actors, director and stage manager set to work, creating a whole new show! The themes connected the tribulations of the “Luddites”, and their employers during the industrial revolution, with the general populace of the UK today.

Joe Scott
Sam Redway as Joe Scott in the turbine room at Farfield Mill

In the piece, struggling to compete in the market with all trade frozen by the Napoleonic war, half-Belgian Robert Moore sets about automating his mill in readiness. Already dogged by others’ xenophobia and suspicion, his swift replacement of trained millworkers with modern machinery is quickly making him the most hated man in Stillborough. Even the loving efforts of his sister’s pupil, Caroline, and his unusual new landlady, Shirley, may fail to rescue him from assassination – as his machinery is vandalised and strange men stalk him in the shadows.

Shirley and Robert
Caroline Lamb as Shirley and Mark Roberts as Robert Moore in the Dover Gallery

Tapping into the history of Farfield really made the place come alive for us. Over just two days, we enjoyed performing the piece five times to lovely audiences, and received great feedback. Audience comments included:

“It was very professional and authentic. The cast captured the sense of the time and portrayed it beautifully.”

“Acting and entire performance wonderful. Felt myself transported back in time.”

“It was original, deftly adapted, excellent use of space and actors’ adaptability to character. Altogether a surprising, engaging production.”

“Very moving. It was superb in every respect.”

Mrs Barraclough
Jo Gerard as Mrs Barraclough at the mill entrance

We want to express our hearty thanks to all who attended and supported us, as well as the officials at the Yorkshire Dales Sustainable Development Fund and the Sedbergh & District Charitable Incorporated Organisation Community Fund for their generosity, and the staff, board and volunteers of Farfield Mill for their wonderful help. Big plans are afoot for Shirley, so watch this space! You can also follow us on Facebook via www.facebook.com/DangerousToKnow or on Twitter via @DTKManc.

After Shirley

Theft of a Girl

Dangerous To Know has been lucky enough to receive a great commission from Creative Industries Trafford to produce a piece of live art, which will be performed over multiple instances during the 23rd and 24th September 2017. The event is called Live at Lyme, and features multiple pieces and performances being shown at Lyme in Disley throughout the end of September.

Theft of a Girl Publicity

In response to a very exciting brief, we produced Theft of a Girl, a piece featuring a simple and soulful monologue performed by Shirley‘s Elka Lee Green about the abduction of 15 year old heiress Ellen Turner from Pott Shrigley in 1826. The performance will also feature a stop motion film about the events, created by Caroline Lamb and visiting artist Morag Hickman.

There is no further cost above admission to the house to see the piece. Please find further information here.

Theft of a Girl

Shirley at Farfield Mill

Shirley Farfield Poster Rough

Hello everyone!

We have some big news. After months of development, Shirley is back in fully-fledged, promenade style at a wonderful ex-cotton mill in Sedbergh, a gloriously picturesque town in the Yorkshire Dales!

Farfield Mill is a restored Victorian building that now houses artists’ studios and exhibition rooms, a tantalising gift shop, a superb café and a great deal more beside, and now Dangerous To Know has the honour of presenting our latest piece as an unmissable dramatised tour of this historic and fascinating building.

The event runs over multiple instances during Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September, repeating on the 16th at 1pm and 3pm, then again at 7pm as part and parcel of a deal where you can bag yourself a spot in the audience and a place at the lovely wine and cheese evening that follows for just £15 a head! On 17th you can catch it at 11.30am, 2pm and 4pm.

Charlotte Brontë’s 1849 novel has never before been adapted for performance, so we’re thrilled to be presenting this gritty version. The work was a period piece even at the time of its conception, harking back to the Napoleonic wars, when trade was tough and mill work was even tougher. Struggling to compete in the market with all trade frozen by the conflict, half-Belgian Robert Moore sets about automating his mill in readiness. Already dogged by the xenophobia and superstition of the locals, his swift replacement of trained millworkers with modern machinery is quickly making him the most hated man in Stillborough. Even the loving efforts of his sister’s pupil, Caroline, and his unusual new landlady, Shirley, may fail to rescue him from assassination – as his machinery is vandalised and strange men stalk him in the shadows.

Call 015396 21958 to book tickets – numbers are limited, so get them while you can!

Shirley at Farfield Mill

Events During Our Hiatus

We’ve been quiet for a little while, but never fear! Dangerous To Know is bubbling away in the background, gradually brewing up our next theatrical offering. In the meantime, however, Caroline has being enjoying involvement in a number of other Northern projects that we’d encourage you all to get behind.

  1. Northern Rep’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Rep is back in Manchester after half a century, and this particular company pulls no punches with its inaugural production. This thrilling re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic fairy-filled-fantasy is unlike anything else. For a taster of what lies in store, take a peak at this write-up in the Manchester Evening News. It’s running in the Great Northern Warehouse for another fortnight, so there’s still time to snap up a ticket if you’re quick.

BOOK FOR A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM HERE

 

  1. Jane Eyre at Haddon Hall

A location for the stunning 2011 Jane Eyre starring Michael Fassbender, Haddon Hall is a grand and glorious property near Bakewell in Derbyshire. This summer, the hall is playing host to a wonderful promenade theatre adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s novel, and Caroline is thrilled to be playing Jane on 20th, 21st and 22nd June 2017! These performances are preceded by a glass of Prosecco per person, and the evening is rounded off with a gorgeous three-course meal.

BOOK FOR JANE EYRE HERE

 

  1. Exploring the Brontës

Caroline will continue her collaboration with poet and fellow Brontë enthusiast Simon Zonenblick of Caterpillar Poetry with evening events later in the year. In equal parts an enlightening talk on the area’s connections with the Brontë family and a lively reading of extracts of the family’s work, followed by an intimate theatrical performance entitled The Cold Plunge, Caroline and Simon will be joining forces with local artists and musicians in various locations throughout the North. Keep checking our website, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook for further information about the next event.

 

Events During Our Hiatus

Shirley Readings – September 2016

To quote the great American composer Leonard Bernstein:

To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.

We gave ourselves only three days to prepare the first ever stage adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley to be performed script-in-hand to audiences at the Lass O’Gowrie in Manchester and the Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in Woodkirk, Leeds (as part of the Morley Arts Festival), and, even then – due to prior commitments and a last-minute recast – we were missing a third of the company for our first rehearsal!

Three days may seem a reasonable amount of time to rehearse for a reading, but given the length and complexity of the text (still a lot to get to grips with even having been whittled down from Charlotte’s hefty and dense work!), our approach of editing as we went, the necessity of working out travel logistics and other technicalities, AND the influence of DTK’s characteristic attention to detail, we were flying by the seats of our pants and no mistake!

The result was extremely rewarding. Wonderful moments of great depth, pathos and comedy were discovered on the fly, sometimes even during the performances themselves. The performers often played by instinct, lending everything a fresh and energetic feel. Director Helen Parry prioritised perfectly, knowing which moments to guide and shape, and understanding which would fall into place “on the night”. I must say that I absolutely cannot imagine how everything would have come together without Helen’s intuitive and discerning direction!

We were lucky enough to play to two very different but equally excellent audiences. The lovely intimate space above the Lass O’Gowrie pub felt full – but not uncomfortably so – and the concentration of the attendees was palpable. The room seemed to buzz! In the larger space at St Mary’s the next day there was a fantastic sense of community and support, and the comedic moments in the text were bolstered by some really rewarding laugh-out-loud responses! I’d really like to take a moment to thank Vicky – the manager at the Lass O’Gowrie who opened the space to us so enthusiastically, Ella Wild, who arranged the slot in the Morley Arts Festival for us, and the vicar at Saint Mary’s, Rev’d Sharon Wilkinson, and her team for making us feel really at home and providing the beautiful venue. The most disappointing thing about the evening was that – as the performance had run over very slightly – the company had to absolutely leg it for the exits after the “curtain call” and summing-up, randomly shaking hands and shouting thanks as we went. Having travelled in from all over – Todmorden, Macclesfield, Salford, Didsbury, Wigan, et al – many cast members were banking on catching the last trains of the day and were likely to be stranded! Luckily everyone made it on time, but that regrettably meant cutting very interesting conversations short. With any luck, we might welcome some returning audience members to the next incarnation of the piece (watch this space!) and find ourselves with a little more time to discuss everything!

shirley-cast
The hard-working cast of Shirley

DTK’s involvement in the Morley Arts Festival is far from complete, however. On 8th October, the company’s founder and resident playwright Caroline Lamb will join local poet and fellow Brontë enthusiast Simon Zonenblick at Morley Library to deliver an event entitled Exploring the Brontës; an evening consisting of readings of work and letters by the famous literary family itself as well as pieces inspired by them. For more details and to book, simply follow the link below:

EXPLORING THE BRONTËS

All in all, the positive responses over the last few days have really helped us to feel like we’ve hit the ground running, so do watch out for future updates about Shirley and other projects!

Shirley Readings – September 2016

Book now for Shirley!

Shirley image 2

Grab your tickets for the first ever airing of our new production – Shirley – while you can, as numbers are limited!

AVAILABLE HERE

Shirley is an unapologetic, all-guns-blazing conception of Charlotte Brontë’s 1849 novel of the same name.

Set during the perfect storm of British workforce rebellion and violent international unrest, the piece reveals that the politics of work, war and love will not change while we are short of powerful, unified and positive calls to action. An eerie pre-echo of the UK’s current zeitgeist, this adaptation moulds Brontë’s hyperactive, multilinear plot into a slick, eloquent but vociferous appeal for reason and alliance.

This performance will be script in hand – the perfect opportunity to see Dangerous To Know’s latest work-in-progress!

DATE: 27/09/2016

TIME: Doors @ 7 to begin at 7.30

The Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Woodkirk, Dewsbury Rd, Leeds WF12 7JL

St Mary's

Book now for Shirley!

Latest Activities

Thank you for your patience, everyone!

We’ve had a lot to get on with throughout the first few months of 2016, including moving base (we’re still in Greater Manchester), but discussions are still ongoing regarding the future of our latest piece, The Dissolution of Percy, along with other possible future activities, so please do keep your eyes peeled!

As a rather belated start to the year, Caroline recently travelled up to Cumbria to deliver one of her talks in the place where she grew up, Sedbergh – a town steeped in history, nestled amongst the Howgill fells, perched on the Yorkshire border.

The talk was extremely well-attended and received by members of the Sedbergh Literary Trust, there was a fantastic spread of refreshments laid out and the evening was thoroughly enjoyable. Some fascinating discussions were had after the reading also, especially surrounding events at the Clergy Daughters School in relatively-nearby Cowan Bridge, where the Brontë sisters were schooled, and where the two eldest, Maria and Elizabeth, contracted the tuberculosis that would very shortly end their young lives.

Interesting theories were covered surrounding the presence of the Brontës in the area, including the possibility that some of the ideas for their books, including the concept of a foundling child introduced in Emily’s Wuthering Heights, may have been products of the local rumour-mill during the brief time they lived in Cowan Bridge. A story that echoes that of Heathcliff’s discovery on the streets of Liverpool was at that time doing the rounds of nearby Dent village, and may have reached the ears of the then-eight-year-old Emily and remained with her for the rest of her life.

It was fantastic to begin to get the ball rolling once more, and we look forward to seeing what the rest of 2016 will bring!

Keep checking back for more updates.

Latest Activities

Thank you, Ambleside!

Yesterday, we found ourselves in the territory of the prestigious “Lake Poets”.

The connection between the Brontës and Ambleside may not be immediately apparent; indeed, I only really knew the half of it until I did some further research prior to travelling up for the reading. Our November production, The Dissolution of Percy, focuses largely on the final few years in the life of Branwell, the Brontë brother, and therefore it was Branwell’s connection with the town that originally drew me there. In 1837, shortly prior to his 20th birthday, Branwell wrote to the poet William Wordsworth – a resident of the area and only a few years away from becoming Poet Laureate – asking for his advice and suggesting that the celebrated older man might offer him some constructive criticism of a couple of his poems. The letter was fairly well put-together, until Branwell’s burning ambitions got the better of him. The younger man royally shot himself in the proverbial foot by writing:

In this day, when there is not a writing poet worth sixpence, the field must be open, if a better man can step forward.

~ Branwell Brontë to William Wordsworth, 1837

According to contemporary accounts, Wordsworth was less than impressed by Branwell’s writing-off of every one of his contemporaries – the majority of whom he respected highly – whilst seemingly naming himself as his addressee’s successor in one sentence. The letter remained unanswered.

At almost exactly the same time, Branwell’s oldest sister, Charlotte, wrote to Robert Southey, another resident of the Lakes and the contemporary Poet Laureate. It seemed the siblings were undertaking something of a networking project. Charlotte’s letter DID receive a response. Unfortunately, that response was not particularly positive and eventually proved to be very poorly calculated. When mentioned to Brontë fans today, it often garners rather a wry chuckle if not an all-out exasperated sigh. Southey famously wrote:

Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it even as an accomplishment and a recreation.

~ Robert Southey to Charlotte Brontë, 1837

Ugh.

Three years later, Branwell found himself relatively nearby in Broughton-in-Furness as the tutor to two young boys who were part of the Postlethwaite family. On days off, he often took excursions around that area of the Lake District and, in Ambleside, found himself in the company of Hartley Coleridge, son of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Small in stature and highly strung just like Branwell himself, Coleridge was an opium addict and prone to poor health. His conditions seem now to be an eerie forewarning of the later decline of his young friend. The two got on extremely well, to the point where Branwell decided to show Coleridge translations from the Odes of Horace that he had been working on. As far as biographers have been able to discern, Coleridge was extremely impressed, and the pair seem to have started hatching a plan for the publication of the works. A draft of a hugely enthusiastic letter from Branwell to Coleridge is still in existence, in which he promises to complete the remaining translations and that, if Coleridge was able to assist in the publication of the work, he would happily split the profits with him. The letter was almost certainly sent, but seems to have remained unanswered. Coleridge’s health, both physical and mental, was poor, and he may have been struck with a bout of depression that wiped all thoughts of his young friend from his mind. The 23-year-old Branwell’s correspondence with Hartley Coleridge was the closest he ever came to literary success.

So much for the Brontës’ relationship with the “Lake Poets”.

A further link with Ambleside arose ten years later, when the local papers announced that “Miss Brontë”, authoress of Jane Eyre, would be visiting “Miss Martineau” in the town. The pair mentioned, of course, were Charlotte Brontë (now the only remaining sibling after the death of her youngest sister Anne the previous year) and Harriet Martineau, the social theorist and political writer. During her time in Ambleside, Charlotte was cursed with the presence of one Sir James Shuttleworth, who enjoyed lecturing her and another visitor – who happened to be the novellist Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell – about the finer points of writing. The two women escaped into each others’ company and a friendship was formed that would last for the remainder of Brontë’s life. Gaskell was even approached by Charlotte’s father and husband, Patrick Brontë and Arthur Bell Nicholls, to write her biography after her death in 1855.

When we arrived, the town was alive with summer tourists and washed in bright sunshine. Arriving at the library with a good amount of time to spare, we were greeted with enthusiasm and an expertly-made cuppa. The library provided a cozy backdrop for an intimate session of readings, and the atmosphere was friendly and lively throughout. We were a good-humoured crowd, and I was buoyed a great deal by the apparent interest of the members of library staff who also listened in. After the readings, I admitted to the library manager, Jane, that my study of the Brontës was really my first excursion into classic literature. She responded: “well, you have the journey of a lifetime ahead of you.”

The positive, warm and friendly responses the readings have generated have been extremely encouraging, and suggest very positive things for our production in November. Upon getting back to Manchester, we received this lovely piece of feedback from the library staff:

“A really charismatic performance… Love and deep understanding of the Brontës shines through and engages the audience completely.”

So, if you were in any doubt about attending one of our readings – there’s a reason why you should!

In case you missed us last time in Scarborough, we’ll be back on 5th September for a matinee reading at Wardle and Jones book shop at 2pm! This one’s slightly different. We’ll be exploring the life and work of the most underrated of the Brontë sisters, the accomplished social commentator Anne.

Come along: the more the merrier! No need to book.

Thank you, Ambleside!

Fundraising Walk: Day Three (Lots of videos!)

Beautiful

Early start for us!

VIDEO: EARLY START (very quiet – apologies for whispering!)

As we had to crack on from Cowan Bridge to Gargrave – a total of 25 miles – and reach our destination by 5pm, we had to get going asap. It will be a similar story tomorrow when we head to Halifax, as the readings at the Central Library will be at 5:30pm!

Today was a slog. With no reading to look forward to, foul weather, and the only route available the rain-soaked verge of a dual carriageway (in fact, we often found we were forced to walk along the carriageway itself!), it was psychologically challenging. Physically also, as there were many narrow stretches of road and tight corners where we were facing traffic head-on, including numerous articulated lorries, and that meant we were forced to stop and start over and over! Luckily, no one was squashed.

The highlight of our day was being passed by a train. We thought that fact was so sad that I thought I’d pop a quick video up in memory of the moment:

VIDEO: TRAAAIIIINNNN!

We also saw some really cute cows. That was another highlight. No time for a photo op though.

Today was not easy.

VIDEO: CAROLINE HAS A WHINE ABOUT THINGS

Upon reaching Gargrave, we dragged ourselves to the other end of the village, and we were done!

photo (3)This is not a power stance. The sign is keeping me upright.

VIDEO: COMPLETE AND UTTER RELIEF!

We’re really, really looking forward to Halifax tomorrow. Please do come along and support our readings. We’ll be at the Central Library from 5:30pm onwards. Take a look at the link below to see the trailer for our production, to donate, to find out more information or to share our campaign!

See you soon.

INFO / TRAILER / CAMPAIGN

Current Venue List for Caroline’s Readings Tour:

The Black Cock Inn, Broughton-in-Furness – Saturday 20th June – 14:00pm

Kendal Library, Kendal – Sunday 21st June – 12:00pm

Cowan Bridge Village Hall, Cowan Bridge – Sunday 21st June – 19:00pm

Halifax Central Library, Halifax – Tuesday 23rd June – 17:30pm

The Cardigan Centre, Leeds – Wednesday 24th June – 20:00pm

The New Inn, Thornton – Thursday 25th June – 20:00pm

Cobbles and Clay, Haworth – Friday 26th June – 18:00pm

Sowerby Bridge Library, Sowerby Bridge – Saturday 27th June – 14:00pm

The Kings Arms Theatre, Salford – Wednesday 8th July – 7:30pm

Follow the company on Twitter (@DTKManc) and use the hashtag #nocowardsoulismine to tweet about this adventure!

Fundraising Walk: Day Three (Lots of videos!)