Last Two Months at a Glance!

Well, we’ve enjoyed a whirlwind of activity recently and, in the paraphrased words of Branwell Brontë, “It is only just now that we have had time to turn ourselves round and know where we are”!

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Last month held some truly exciting experiences for us. on 21st October, we were invited to read extracts from Jane Eyre in the very building that once housed the Clergy Daughter’s School; the stark template for Lowood School in the novel. The Brontë School House, as it is now named, boasts exceptionally tasteful decor that proffers a suitable nod to the period in question, and no longer bears the chilling atmosphere of the infamous establishment that claimed the lives of poor Maria and Elizabeth Brontë in 1825. It is cosy and homelike, and when the fire is on in the sitting room (which boasts a selection of dangerously comfy seating and shelving loaded with fascinating books!), it’s extremely easy to forget the blustery weather outside. The best news is that you can stay there! The lovely Sandra runs the building as a holiday rental cottage, and you can find details via: www.bronteschoolhouse.com

It was a characteristically atmospheric evening as we travelled to Cowan Bridge on the Cumbria/Lancashire border.

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We arrived in good time at the School House, where we were treated to a very warm welcome and a lovely tour, provided by our host, Sandra.

Information about the Brontës, their time at the school and various other items of contemporary interest lay on the table in one of the rooms. On the wall in the same room was displayed a variety of artifacts discovered while renovating the historic building. These included knives and forks, marbles and even “horse-shoe”-shaped metal inserts designed to reinforce a very small pair of clogs or pattens!

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I performed the readings in costume before a roaring fire, and, with flickering lanterns outside glowing out into the wet chill of the darkening night, the event seemed to take on an almost secretive and thrilling atmosphere. I was unprepared for quite how emotionally involved the experience would be, particularly considering the significance of the passages on Jane’s friend Helen Burns, who served as a fictionalized homage to Charlotte’s ill-fated elder sisters.

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Despite the wonderful coziness of their seats and the glorious warmth in the room, the audience retained consciousness throughout the event and held a very interesting conversation about Charlotte’s writing and the significance of the school and the young Brontës’ experiences there within their work. It was a fantastic event, and we left hoping that we might get the opportunity to spend the night in the wonderful building sometime not too far in the future!

In the meantime, the company were heading into the final few rehearsals for The Dissolution of Percy, which was to be performed in Salford and Haworth at the beginning of the following month, but that didn’t stop us arranging another fantastic event the night before the dress rehearsal! That night was Hallowe’en.

Our good friends at Ponden Hall had been extremely enthusiastic at the suggestion of a spooky set of readings, the partaking of pie and parkin and the sharing of true ghost stories to celebrate this auspicious night, and the event did not disappoint!

Under ethereal strings of glowing lights and before the hall’s impressive hearth, I read from Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and a selection of Emily’s poetry. The atmosphere was electric, with the added threat of a glimpse of the hall’s grey bearded man or flaming-barrel gytrash adding to the otherworldly feel.

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A welcome break for one of Julie’s delicious spreads was extremely welcome, and we were delighted to be handed plates of steaming pie, peas and lashings of gravy! Over this fantastic repast, we began to share tales of our own eerie experiences with zeal.

The informality and communal nature of the event was testament to the ancient hall’s fantastic atmosphere, and its owners’ warmth as hosts. Ponden is another exceptionally popular guest house, and a stay there is highly recommended, especially considering that it boasts the famous “Box Bed” room from Wuthering Heights, as well as many elements of interest for the Brontë fanatic. Sketches of its rooms and windows crated by Branwell and Emily may be found in numerous reference books, and its library afforded the young family an even wider opportunity to read and learn.

You can book to stay at Ponden Hall via www.ponden-hall.co.uk

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Of course, only a few days later, the company were to launch into their run of The Dissolution of Percy which, as you may have seen from our previous posts, went exceptionally well if we do say so ourselves. We’ll update you further on the play’s successes and potential future life as we traverse this uncharted landscape that is life “post-Percy”, and we hope you’ll continue to follow us and see where the adventure leads!

If you know of a venue that would be interested in booking a talk, a reading or a staging of The Dissolution of Percy, or have any questions about Dangerous To Know and our work, don’t hesitate to contact us on dtkmanchester@gmail.com!

Last Two Months at a Glance!

First review is in!

On Wednesday night, Dangerous To Know opened our doors to the public for the first performance in our run of The Dissolution of Percy and, as is always nerve-wracking, we invited press and reviewers to tell us what they thought of our work!

Brontë Sisters

Now Frank Hill, a reviewer for RemoteGoat, has delivered, and we are absolutely thrilled.

Under the heading “Gripping, original Branwell Brontë drama”, he writes:

“There’s a painting of the Brontë sisters, posed woodenly around a small table, with a figure standing behind them smeared out of all recognition. This figure was the artist himself, their brother Branwell, who had defaced his own image in some bout of self-loathing. As a student I was fascinated by this ghost-like image hovering ominously in the background, so was particularly interested to see a new play at The Kings Arms, Salford where Branwell takes centre stage.

I knew Caroline Lamb’s drama (‘The Dissolution of Percy’) was going to be interesting when one of the sister’s asked where her powder was. Instead of entering with objects from her boudoir she came onstage carrying a gun. The material in question was gunpowder. That’s when I realised this was going to be an unusual perspective on the Brontë women and their much-neglected-by-history brother.

The play began at an unusually stable period in Branwell’s life when, thanks to the efforts of his sisters, he had obtained a post as tutor to the Robinson’s family’s son. All seemed well, but it soon became clear that he had not forsaken his spendthrift, drunken ways and stories of his behaviour reached the ears of Mr. Robinson. Although not one to smooth over troubled waters, Branwell managed to retain his position, only to then embark on an affair with the mistress of the house, Lydia.

Branwell was a dreamer, trapped in the fantasies of childhood stories and a great admirer of Lord Byron. But without that poet’s panache and fame, being ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ could be disastrous. Detached from reality, narcissistic, and drawn to alcohol and laudanum, it became the task of his sisters to save Branwell from himself. But had he already reached the point of no return?

The play is about unfulfilled ambition, self denial and desire. It’s well written and tightly structured with fine performances (I’m sure the few occasions when actors spoke over each others lines will soon be ironed out).

Alison Flevill, Marcella Hazell and Caroline Lamb brought Jane (Ed. read “Emily”) , Anne and Charlotte vividly to life and Jane Allighan’s sensitive portrayal of Lydia showed a character desperate to survive in a world where wealth and poverty were frighteningly close neighbours – particularly for women in Victorian England.

Sean Fitton provided solid support with characters ranging from Rev. Brontë to Branwell’s drinking partner John.

But the play stands or falls on the portrayal of Branwell himself, and Sam Redway gave a riveting performance as the vulnerable, selfish, frustrating artist. To give just one example of his skill – I have seen some terrible interpretations of drunkenness on stage – by some renowned actors. It’s extremely difficult to do well and Sam managed to pitch it perfectly, getting the nuances just right. A great performance throughout, and director Helen Parry must take credit for that.

An unusual subject then, focussing on characters usually ignored by history and thereby also creating a new perspective on the famous sisters themselves. Excellent.”

Thank you, Frank! It’s wonderful to get this type of feedback for an inaugural production. We hope our work continues to impress for the rest of the run, and for the play’s future life!

If you would like tickets to the production, we highly recommend booking in advance via the link below.

BOOK NOW!

First review is in!

Opening Night!

The Dissolution of Percy opens TONIGHT at 7:30 at  the Kings Arms in Salford, M3 6AN.

Come along and see the wonderful work we have done! The rehearsal process has been both a labour of love and a real hardy slog for every member of the company.

Book your tickets in advance to save time at the box office and to ensure that you get a seat! Below is the direct link for THIS EVENING ONLY:

Book Here!

And now, introducing the cast (in order of appearance):

Jane Allighan as Lydia

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Seán Fitton as George, John and Patrick

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Alison Flevill as Anne and Drake

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Sam Redway as Branwell

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Marcy Hazell as Charlotte and Leyland

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Caroline Lamb as Emily

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And here we are talking about the production on the radio! Our little segment is just after 34 minutes in:

Dangerous To Know: The Dissolution of Percy on All About Art

We have thoroughly enjoyed working together to bring you something we are truly proud of. We look forward to welcoming you into our audience!

See you soon x

Opening Night!

Our Beautiful Flyers!

We thought we’d share these lovely things with you. We’re dead chuffed with them!

We’re well into rehearsals now, and the production is shaping up to be a corker! Seats are limited for our performances in Salford (4th – 7 November) and Haworth (14th November), so you’d best CLICK HERE to get booking your tickets! We wouldn’t want you to miss it!

The Dissolution of Percy Flyer 2015

The Dissolution of Percy Flyer Back 2015

Image © George Hill Photography 2015

Our Beautiful Flyers!

Scarborough Delivers Yet Again!

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It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Scarborough yesterday – it’s always a pleasure to visit but the weather truly made it special this time!

Naturally, we had to pop up to visit Anne Brontë’s grave, and it was lovely to see that some sweet little trinkets had been added to the tributes that already adorned it.

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We enjoyed a wander along the beach and a bit of exploring through the historic town.

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Unearthing a few hidden gems off knowledge along the way!

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Readings? Good grief, Dickens, have an original thought for once!

But time was of the essence, and we arrived at the library on Vernon Road well in advance. This was definitely necessary, as not only did we need to set up, but Caroline was performing the readings in costume and had to get changed! (Pictures to come. Of the costume, not the changing – what kind of site do you think this is?!)

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We were blessed with a warm, attentive and sizeable audience and were very well-received! Used to performing in a T-shirt and jeans, Caroline certainly struggled to avoid wilting in the sweltering costume she’d picked out for herself and admitted that she was unsure whether or not she was fully-conscious throughout the readings, but the energetic applause that followed seemed to suggest that it had all gone swimmingly!

It was fantastic to meet new friends and speak to established Brontë enthusiasts and “first-timers” alike, as it always is when our events are so well-attended, and we really hope to see some of our lovely audience members from Scarborough at a couple of our performances this November!

If you wish to book a ticket for our production, The Dissolution of Percy, please click here!

Scarborough Delivers Yet Again!

Brilliant News!

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The Dissolution of Percy has been offered full Arts Council funding!

Book your tickets to see it in all its glory at The Kings Arms Theatre in Salford or Parkside Social Club in Haworth!

CLICK HERE to book your tickets in advance, or risk missing out!

You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates!

Brilliant News!

Lowood School

A couple of months ago, part-way along an 130-mile fundraising trek, we wandered past the atmospheric Brontë School House – once the infamous Clergy Daughters School, attended by a very young Charlotte and Emily Brontë and their tragic older sisters Maria and Elizabeth, who sadly fell victim to tuberculosis as a result of their time under its roof. Later, this establishment was the template for the dreadful Lowood School in Charlotte’s Jane Eyre.

The current owners of the building have chased away the its dark past and transformed it into a cozy, hospitable and popular guest house, and have now kindly invited us in to perform a reading tailored specifically to its Brontë connections!

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Don’t miss out on this unique event – we’re really looking forward to reading these great works on the site that first inspired them!

Lowood School

West Yorkshire: Two in One!

Well, it was only a matter of time before we were back in Brontë country!

After a very early start, we found ourselves in the lovely little town of Morley, in the very well-kept and well-attended library. Our thanks go to Simon Zonenblick, who offered us the opportunity to take the readings there. Simon is currently working on a documentary film about Branwell Brontë’s time on the Manchester to Leeds railway at Sowerby Bridge and Luddenden Foot, so please keep your eye out for it! Visit the website here or follow @CaterpillarPoet on Twitter for updates.

The audience filtered in – a chatty, upbeat lot who helped themselves to tea and coffee and seemed very much up for a morning of entertainment! The event went swimmingly, and the ladies and gentlemen in attendance didn’t make it easy for us to leave afterwards, indulging Caroline’s penchant for being quizzed in Brontë trivia to the point where she had to be virtually dragged away when it was time to go! Interest certainly seemed to be piqued by the biographical side of the talk, and we enjoyed giving recommendations for various books on the Brontë family. Our sincerest thanks go to the staff of Morley library who rounded up such a superb crowd and really made us feel at home. It’s definitely not goodbye forever!

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Alas, however, we did have to go, and our next destination was a famous one. We travelled along the Thornton Road to Haworth, retracing the route Caroline took on her 130 mile walk three months ago and doubtlessly the one taken by the young Brontës when they moved to the town in 1820. We were starving upon arrival, but that was easily and comprehensively fixed by a brief trip to Cobbles and Clay, the wonderful art cafe that hosted one of our readings in June. Tuscan Bean Stew, Bean Burritos and an absolutely divine warm sticky apple cake were very much enjoyed!

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After that, we paid a visit to the always atmospheric and affecting Parsonage Museum, examined the original bullet holes blasted by Patrick “If I Hit Anyone In The Churchyard They’ll Already Be Dead” Brontë in his own church tower, and paid a quiet little visit to the memorial above the Brontë crypt. After all, it was quite a special day.

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A faint rainbow ends on the moors.

24th September, 1848, marked the sad day of Branwell Brontë’s death at the age of 31. 167 years later, we were on our way to read work by himself and his famous sisters at Ponden Hall, one of their favourite childhood haunts and the site of some of their happiest memories and most intense inspiration. It is likely to be one of the properties that inspired Emily’s Wuthering Heights as well as the probable template for Darkwall, an affluent home mentioned multiple times in the Brontë children’s Angrian saga.

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The evening was beautiful and calm, and the house was warm and homely. We were safely shut away from the ghosts that many say wander its grounds. (We’ll be reading there on Halloween though – let’s see what happens then!) We were very pleased to see that the Collections Manager from the Brontë Parsonage, Ann Dinsdale, had come along to see what we were up to! Again, we really enjoyed performing the readings, but what turned a fun night into an excellent one was the exemplary spread laid out by Ponden resident and owner, Julie Akhurst. No fewer than FOUR cakes – including a traditional Victorian “seed cake” flavoured wonderfully with caraway, as well as scones, sandwiches and tea brewed the proper Yorkshire way graced the table and the guests tucked in heartily! However, the evening was not over, and Julie then took us on a tour of the ancient house. Utterly spoiled, we were treated to a glimpse of the famous “Box Bed” room from Wuthering Heights and the library that allowed the young Brontës to further develop their love of reading.

Another fabulous day sharing the works of the Brontë family with other enthusiasts had certainly worn us out, but it’s not over yet! We’re at Scarborough Library on Thursday 1st October, then we’ll retrace our steps to Cowan Bridge to perform a Jane Eyre-themed reading in the famous Clergy Daughters’ Schoolhouse – the template for Lowood School in Charlotte’s classic novel – on Wednesday 21st October, and finally we’ll be back at Ponden Hall for our eerie Halloween event!

Watch this space for more information, and take a moment to remember poor tragic Branwell, 200 years old in 2017. See our original production about the end of his life in Salford and Haworth this November.

West Yorkshire: Two in One!

Over to York

Yesterday was a really beautiful day, and I’m glad I mad the most of it by heading over to York, one of the most beautiful cities I can think of!

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I started off by creating the cover of my next folk/grunge/indie album on the city walls: IMG_0013

I’d come on a really good day – it was the York Food Festival and the whole city smelled delicious.

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To distract myself from my only weakness – food – I entertained myself by indulging my other weakness – old stuff. Ok, I have two weaknesses. But York is fab for antiques, and look at this!

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Seen in the window of an armour shop. An armour shop. Let that sink in.
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A nice little collection of weaponry for the discerning 18th/19th century shopper.

Once I’d messed about enough, I headed over to my venue for the evening. The library, York Explore, is absolutely superb, with oak-panelled events spaces, interactive whiteboards, a cafe, full seasonal programmes of events and, of course, a staggering collection of books, archives, records… I really enjoyed myself there!

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And they actually gave me my own little room to prepare in! Now, I’m not going to get too big for my boots and call it a “dressing room”, but…

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York is always a lovely day out, and this was a great way to end it. The readings went very well, and the audience members had some really interesting questions at the end. Citing Branwell’s influence on his sisters’ literary interests at an early age, as well as their later habit of drawing on a few of his experiences as a basis for happenings in their work, one lady asked whether I thought there would BE a Brontë canon if it wasn’t for their brother. A question without a sure answer, as we knew, but an interesting one to consider. I responded that I like to think there would have been, though it would be very different, particularly in the case of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

We’ve only a couple more readings to go – one at Ponden Hall in Haworth tomorrow (email talks@ponden.force9.co.uk to book!), and one at Scarborough Library on 1st October.

Following these, we’re back at Ponden with a great set of readings for Halloween. You can bring your own ghost story, enjoy a delicious autumnal feast and snuggle up by the flickering fire before an atmospheric tour of the ancient house. Again, email talks@ponden.force9.co.uk to join in!

We’ll hopefully see you at one of our upcoming events, or you can come along to our production, The Dissolution of Percy, which is in Salford and Haworth this November.

Now we need to hurry off and prepare for our trip to Haworth tomorrow, so, in the words of that big girt church someone stuck in the middle of York:

Video: Bong Bong For Now

Over to York

A Second Stint in Scarborough!

Having enjoyed the fantastic seaside town so much on our last visit, we were delighted to be asked back to Scarborough by cozy bookshop Wardle & Jones on Bar Street on 5th September – this time to talk specifically about Anne Brontë, the youngest in the family, and the only one to be buried separately from her family. Her father Patrick and mother Maria, along with her siblings Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Branwell and Emily, were all laid to rest in the Brontë crypt under St. Michael’s church in Haworth.

Last time we were there, we placed a little pot of lavender next to her grave, and it was lovely to see that, while not so vividly coloured any more, it was still there!

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I thought I’d take a wander up and round the castle walls – something I’d failed to do on the previous visit. It was utterly fantastic, and, while the day was a little cold (there were still proper Yorkshire people swimming in the sea, mind!) the views were still superb.

IMG_0071 On my way, I came across a play area that made me question whether or not I cared what people would think about a grown woman playing on wooden battlements.

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And on returning to the town, I came across Darth Vader, who was busy challenging children to lightsabre battles. Pick on someone your own size, Vader!

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I had a fantastic time at Wardle & Jones, particularly because at least one member of the audience went on to buy a copy of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall from the shop immediately after the reading! I was made to feel really at home, and very much enjoyed one of their glorious brownies (seriously, you need to try those things!) I’ll definitely be visiting them again when I’m back in Scarborough on 1st October, when I’ll be taking the readings to the local library!

A Second Stint in Scarborough!