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!
TIME: Doors @ 7 to begin at 7.30
TheParish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Woodkirk, Dewsbury Rd, Leeds WF12 7JL
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.