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!

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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!

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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!

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!

Ambleside Reading Announced!

We don’t like to rest!

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However, we DO like the beautiful Lake District, so we’re heading up to Ambleside on the  25th August at 5:30pm, where we’ll be delivering our highly popular readings of Brontë poetry and prose in the lovely library!

Take a look at the Facebook page for further details. Please spread the word – we can promise a highly enjoyable evening for all!

CLICK HERE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Ambleside Reading Announced!

Further readings in Scarborough!

Not simply content with one reading in Scarborough (come along to Taylor’s Café and Books on 8th August at 6pm!) we have just confirmed a second event in anticipation of National Poetry Day!

Caroline will be at Scarborough Library from 6pm on 1st October, reading a special selection of work by the Brontë family. The event will last for roughly an hour, and there will be refreshments available.

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Scarborough is, of course, the resting place of Anne Brontë, the youngest member of the family, who died at the age of 29 in 1849. Her literary legacy is vastly underrated; Agnes Grey, her first novel, speaks out with understated sensitivity about the torturous trials and damage to self-respect suffered by governesses, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall tackles readily the stigma attached to women who flee domestic abuse, and the moral dilemmas faced when raising a son or daughter in a society all too ready to dictate how it must be done.

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Anne, who worked as a governess with the Robinson family of Little Ouseburn near York for a lengthy period of her adult life, often accompanied her employers on their holidays to Scarborough. Her brother Branwell, who entered the Robinson’s employment a little later, would also join them. Branwell was later fired – strong evidence points to an affair with Mrs Robinson – and Anne left her position too, apparently out of shame.

When her sister’s health began to fail due to tuberculosis, a condition the whole family seemed susceptible to, Charlotte Brontë escorted Anne to the seaside town once more. Anne loved the ocean, and it was thought that the sea air might assist in her recuperation, but sadly the young woman died in her hotel room with her sister and a close friend, Ellen Nussey, by her side. In her final hours, Anne voiced a wish to be buried in Scarborough. Her last words to Charlotte were “Take courage, Charlotte. Take courage.”

Anne’s pretty grave can still be visited today. She is the only member of her family not to be buried in the Brontë crypt under Haworth church in West Yorkshire.

Further readings in Scarborough!

Announced: Event in Ambleside!

Another event in August! Come along to Ambleside Library on 25th August at 5:30pm to get a chance to hear gorgeous Brontë work and enter into a discussion about the unique and unusual family.

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The event is FREE to attend! Please see the Facebook event page here.

Original pieces will also be brought to the stand, and audience members are welcome to donate a short piece of work for this purpose. Simply email dtkmanchester@gmail.com!

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Dangerous To Know is a currently self-funded Northern theatre company, which will always be grateful of support. Our upcoming production, The Dissolution of Percy, an original piece about the final few years in the life of Branwell Brontë, will be staged in Greater Manchester and Yorkshire this coming November. For more information, and to watch a trailer for the production…

PLEASE CLICK HERE

Announced: Event in Ambleside!

Announced: Scarborough Event!

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Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be in Scarborough on 8th August at 6pm, reading a little more of the beautiful work by the Bronte family, and chatting about their intriguing lives and (in some cases) scandalous relationships!

Original pieces will also be brought to the stand, and audience members are welcome to donate a short piece of work for this purpose. Simply email dtkmanchester@gmail.com!

If you’d like a little more information about the event…

PLEASE CLICK HERE

George_Hill_Photography__(40_[1]

Dangerous To Know is a currently self-funded Northern theatre company, which will always be grateful of support. Our upcoming production, The Dissolution of Percy, an original piece about the final few years in the life of Branwell Bronte, will be staged in Greater Manchester and Yorkshire this coming November. For more information, and to watch a trailer for the production…

PLEASE CLICK HERE

Announced: Scarborough Event!