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!

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Shirley Readings – September 2016

Big News! Casting call for Shirley reading

After our wonderful success with The Dissolution of Percy, at the end of last year, we thought we’d get cracking with a second Brontë-themed piece; this time, a stage adaptation of Charlotte’s Shirley (something we certainly haven’t seen before!) So we’re putting out a casting call! It’s a tricky piece to cast, as you’ll see below.

A public reading of the script will take place on 27th September at 7:00pm (for a 7:30pm start) during Morley Arts Festival between Dewsbury and Leeds (St Mary the Virgin Parish Church – WF12 7JL). Travel expenses will be covered, and unless otherwise requested, cast members will be recalled for any major future production of the piece, for which we would ensure they would be fully paid. We are hoping to cast at least one individual who holds a full licence and owns a car to lessen transport costs. Fuel costs will be reimbursed.

The company will work to accommodate all cast members’ availability regarding the few rehearsals we’ll need. Auditions and rehearsals will be held in Manchester.

Cast (including multi-rolling)

Male 1: Multi-roler, 40s-50s. Must be able to adapt body-language to suit three different characters. Accents: West Yorkshire, subtle RP and comical upper-class.
Roles
Rev Helstone: Caroline’s paternal uncle. Firm and unbending.
Michael Barraclough: A local down-and-out. Struggling to retain his grip on reality. An ex-worker from Hollow’s Mill.
Mr Sympson: Shirley’s uncle and father of her young cousin. Louis’ employer. Outspoken and affluent.

Male 2: Non-multi-roler, 30s. Tall. Must be able to speak with a Belgian accent. Will accept either Belgian actor or English actor with an excellent grasp of the accent.
Role
Robert Moore: A half-English, half-Belgian mill owner. On his last chance to prove himself after the French revolution laid waste to his inherited family business. Works hard to maintain a cold, officious front, but secretly too gentle to be a hard-nosed businessman. In love with Caroline Helstone but afraid that he cannot afford to support a family.

Male 3: Multi-roler. Mid-late 20s. Must be physically and vocally versatile, able to differentiate between two characters both visually and audibly.
Roles
Joe Scott: Hardworking and passionate mill-hand. Once loyal to his master, Robert Moore, but slowly becoming more enamoured with the prospect of a peaceful uprising. Yorkshire accent.
Louis Moore: Robert’s younger brother, raised in England. An undervalued tutor. RP accent. Downtrodden but not without a wickedly dry and charming sense of humour.
Female 1: Non-multi-roler. Early to mid 20s. Small build. RP or subtle Northern accent.
Caroline Helstone: Resourceful and intelligent. Ambitious against the will of her uncle. Repressed. In love with Robert Moore and frustrated by his aloofness. Strong in spirit but not in body.

Female 2: Multi-roler. 40s-50s. Must be highly versatile both physically and in voice as one role must be believed to be a little older than the others. Must be able to speak with Belgian and Yorkshire accents.

Roles

Hortense Moore (early 40s): Robert’s older sister and Caroline Helstone’s governess. Half-English, half-Belgian. A straight-faced, dry sense of humour. Extremely brave, protective and self-sufficient. Belgian accent.

Mrs Pryor (late 40s, early 50s): Shirley’s governess. Quietly spoken and secretive. Capable of a great deal of love that must be suppressed. RP or subtle Yorkshire accent.
Mrs Barraclough (40s): Wife of Michael. Extremely poor but extremely enterprising. Bitter and intelligent. (Can be younger and multi-role with actor playing Shirley.) Yorkshire accent.

 

Please send headshot and CV or Spotlight link to dtkmanchester@gmail.com!

Big News! Casting call for Shirley reading

FUNDRAISING WALK: DAY 5

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Looking slightly crispy today, but interested to see how I’ll fare for my full day alone!

So I drowned myself in suncream, dressed appropriately and set off.

VIDEO: CAN’T HANDLE THE SUN

Enjoyed a slightly geeky moment as I passed the pub in which Branwell is thought to have preferred to socialize in Halifax:

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Enjoyed a couple more geeky moments before the weather and distance really took their toll!

Here’s a bit of fun: how do the following two place names relate to the Brontë story?


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VIDEO: BEGINNING TO STRUGGLE…

The heat really did start to get to me today, despite the shorter distance!

VIDEO: HOW DARE THEY?

Eventually, I did make to Leeds, all in one piece, save for my sanity…

VIDEO: OH DEAR.

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The reception in Leeds was, again, fantastic. Some really intriguing and important questions were asked, such as: if there were more boys in the Brontë family, how might things have been different?

That’s worth thinking on! Also this:

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It’s been a long walk!

I’m looking forward to heading over to Thornton tomorrow. Please check out the link to the fundraising campaign, the trailer and further information below:

INFO / TRAILER / CAMPAIGN

For details of our remaining destinations, please see the following list:

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 5

Fundraising Walk: Day 4

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INFO / TRAILER / DONATE

The weather was absolutely fantastic today (the above photo perhaps not being the best evidence, but the sunburn on my forehead, ears and neck confirms it!), and we chose a route away from main roads in order to enjoy a bit of quiet and to get a chance to take in the surrounding landscape.

It was a little longer – around 27 miles in total – but it took us by Haworth and over the moors, through to Halifax.

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Alright for some… lazy cows.

The views were stunning, and we enjoyed the opportunity to relax a bit, though we were still working to a time limit! By the time we reached Halifax, we’d walked over 90 miles overall, so the tiredness really was kicking in!

VIDEO: CAROLINE CRACKS UNDER THE PRESSURE

VIDEO: INSPIRED BY THE MOORS AND DISTRACTED BY BIRDS

What a fantastic venue Halifax Library is, and what a lovely and receptive audience turned up! Many thanks must go out to the staff who not only worked hard to promote the event, but had chairs, teas and coffees set up for the attendees when we arrived.

Today marks the end – I think – of the 20+ mile stretches. Tomorrow, we deliver readings at The Cardigan Centre in Headingley, Leeds, at 8pm, and we’d love to see you there!

I can’t possibly close without thanking a very special member of my support team – my mum – who has worked twice as hard as I have; walking alongside me, planning and navigating the routes, listening with great patience to my incessant impromptu Brontë lectures… Time pressures have rendered it impossible for her to continue the journey with me, but we’ll check in frequently. A million thanks and lots of love!

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See the link below for details of how you can support our campaign. Watch the trailer for our production, The Dissolution of Percy, donate or share the information as you wish!

INFO / TRAILER / DONATE

Here are the remaining dates and venues for Caroline’s walk and readings tour:

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 4