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!

More Brontë readings to come!

After the success of our big campaign in June, in which AD Caroline Lamb walked 130 miles in one week, stopping off to deliver readings of poetry, prose and letters by the Brontë family, we thought we’d crack the little black folder out a second time for a few of the important Brontë-related sites we’ve not yet covered* (the walking boots are staying at home this time!)

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While dates are still being confirmed, we are pleased to announce that our intimate, enlightening, fun and slightly scandalous event will soon be delivered in Scarborough, Ambleside and York during August and September. Other sites may yet be added!

CLICK HERE: Readings announced in Westmorland Gazette

CLICK HERE: Readings announced in Yorkshire Times

CLICK HERE: Readings reviewed on Brontë Society Blog

*Yes, we do know about London and Brussels. One day!

More Brontë readings to come!

Fundraising walk: Final day

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TRAILER / INFO / CAMPAIGN

We had an early start, and set off from Haworth with the sun beating down upon us as we set a course for the final point in our journey: Sowerby Bridge, where Branwell Brontë once worked as a clerk  on the railway.

It isn’t just the Brontë connection that causes me to be fascinated by Haworth – it’s the fact that, visually, it has changed so little since their time, and the thought that a number of its inhabitants can boast local ancestry stretching back before the time of the famous literary family.

VIDEO: “MYSTERIOUS” HAWORTH

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The names used in the area also suggest their link to the town’s history. The Haworth Free School may once have welcomed Branwell into its tutelage, but for some reason – be it his highly strung personality, the mental or physical health issues that many now suggest that he had, or something else – he could only have attended for a few months before being withdrawn for home-schooling.

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I got the chance once again to pass over the lovely West Yorkshire Moors, though the terrain wasn’t always on my side.

VIDEO: DAD JOKE

Though I did make a couple of friends along the way. The locals of West Yorkshire are friendly whatever their species!

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As is always the way with the North, one kind of weather didn’t seem to be enough and, suddenly I found myself battling gale-force winds as I made my way through Wainstalls.

VIDEO: BIT WINDY!

Eventually, signs for Luddenden Foot, where Branwell briefly enjoyed a promotion to the position of clerk in charge, lifted my spirits someone despite the sweltering sun, as my destination was getting ever-closer:

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However, I knew my legs and feet wouldn’t hold up for much longer, and was grudgingly grateful that this was the final ten miles of my 130 mile journey. I decided to write a short song to commemorate the quest as I hobbled along. (Warning: suggests a naughty word!)

VIDEO: CAROLINE’S TOTALLY ORIGINAL COMPOSITION

Trivia: Caroline holds Grade 8 with distinction with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Seriously. It’s on her Spotlight and everything. The fraud.

I was overjoyed to arrive in Sowerby Bridge in good time, and found a wonderful welcome awaiting. This fab display really made it all feel a bit special, and was particularly poignant as this was the final date of my readings tour:

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Audience members were arriving a good fifteen minutes before the start, and, once I began, all seemed highly interested in the subject and started some really interesting discussions after the talk was finished. Sowerby Bridge library really seems a vital part of its community, and this seemed evident in the numbers that attended the event.

At the end, I packed away my things with a degree of sadness, because, though I was looking forward to heading home for a good rest, I knew I would miss this project hugely. I hope to put on some more readings in the near future (there is one lined up for 8th July at 7:30, at the Kings Arms in Salford), but it was the combination of those and the walking that really made this an experience to remember.

The adventure had also left its mark on my trainers, which evidently decided that enough was enough and have now been given last rites.

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You have served me well, trainers. You will be remembered.

VIDEO: TRIBUTE TO MY TRAINERS

So it’s over now! A few really exciting opportunities have arisen from this venture, and we have big plans for the next couple of months before The Dissolution Percy hits the stage at the Kings Arms in Salford from 4th – 7th November and for one night in Haworth at the Parkside Social Club on 14th November.

So keep an eye on our website and Twitter feed (@DTKManc) for updates. In the meantime, please do take a look at the below link for The Dissolution of Percy‘s trailer, further information about the production, and for the chance to donate to our exciting new company! Please share the information wherever you can – any assistance is hugely appreciated.

TRAILER / INFO / CAMPAIGN

Fundraising walk: Final day

Fundraising Walk: Day 7

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INFO / TRAILER / CAMPAIGN

It was a rather grim start to the day, damp and overcast, but the walk was only a little over six miles in a straight line between Thornton and Haworth.

To set me up for the day ahead, I thought I’d give a little history lesson as I went on my way:

VIDEO: THORNTON ROAD

Then I recalled that it was time to do a birthday shout-out for a certain someone. I wasn’t quite up for stopping off to buy 198 candles though.

VIDEO: MANY (MANY) HAPPY RETURNS!

While the walk into Haworth was utterly gorgeous and highly atmospheric, it seemed so short compared with earlier treks that I could have blinked and missed it. I did have time, however, to be substantially miffed by the sight of a lovely claret-leather chair sitting alone in a field.

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I’m sure we could have made use of it if no one had wanted it; it looked in decent nick! However, if a person had brought it out with thoughts of sitting and admiring the fabulous view, then kudos to them – I’d have done the same.

After a short time, I found myself skirting the moors, with a direct path over them to Haworth. I was far too tempted. I clambered off the road, and had a little peace and quiet amidst the scrubby heather and tussocks of grass.

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Breaking over the brow of a hill, I finally came across this belter of a vista, with the town half-shrouded in mist at the bottom of the valley:

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A little further along, a steam train puffed along the Worth Valley railway below me, and I went completely potty, scrambling to film. Sadly I failed. You’ll have to imagine it. But it was lovely.

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The bunting was out in the town as I walked to the top of the steep street, making a beeline for the obligatory selfie outside:

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The Brontë Parsonage.

After admiring the bullet holes left in the church tower opposite by the wonderfully unique Reverend Patrick Brontë – who slept with a loaded pistol close at hand every night and discharged it out of the window every morning for safety’s sake – I had a poignant moment in the church where I paid my respects to the whole family, save Anne who was laid to rest in Scarborough.

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The talk, at the brilliant art cafe, Cobbles and Clay, was very well attended and the response was superb. The pieces that audience members donated to be read were of an extremely high standard as usual. After a very nice chat with the attendees, I popped over to The Black Bull, famously Branwell’s preferred watering hole, for a respectful pint, and was pleased to see that his favourite chair, still in one piece almost one hundred and seventy years after his death, was on display partway up the stairs.

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It’s hardly as if I’m a stranger to Haworth, but I very much enjoyed this visit – as I do all visits – to perhaps the most famous of my destinations.

With tomorrow comes the final stretch to Sowerby Bridge, where Branwell worked as a clerk on the railway, before I return to Manchester and reality. I’ll be at Sowerby Bridge library at 2pm, and it would be fantastic to see this wonderful adventure off in style.

Please do come along!

See the company’s trailer for The Dissolution of Percy, find out more information and take a look at our crowdfunding campaign below:

INFO / TRAILER / CAMPAIGN

Fundraising Walk: Day 7