Theft of a Girl

They say there’s no rest for the wicked. We’re still not sure of the crimes Caroline Lamb, Elka Lee Green and Helen Parry have committed, but only a couple of days after zipping back down the motorway following our production of Shirley in the Yorkshire Dales, they were setting to work on another intense project! Luckily for them, it was a pretty fantastic one.

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Picture © Jason Lock Photography +44 (0) 7889 152747 +44 (0) 161 431 4012 info@jasonlock.co.uk http://www.jasonlock.co.uk

The seeds were sown for Theft of a Girl a few months back, when we were awarded a commission from Creative Industries Trafford, who had struck up a partnership with the National Trust‘s exciting new venture known as “Trust New Art” – a branch of the charity that forms bridges between independent artists and National Trust places. Their upcoming project was Live at Lyme, and they were looking for artists and performers to create pieces inspired by the Regency period that would be shown around the beautiful and expansive Lyme Park estate in Cheshire – and within the walls of the grand house that presides over its grounds – throughout September.

The story of Ellen Turner – a schoolgirl from a wealthy family who was kidnapped and duped into marrying a much older man under false pretences – immediately sprung out at writer Caroline, and she composed a simple, atmospheric monologue to be performed in the nursery of the house, accompanied by a stop motion video. Once the commission was secured, Caroline and filmmaker Morag Hickman set out to Lyme Park armed with thirteen-inch artists’ mannequins painted in matte black and adorned with a variety of hats, and a delicate poseable doll in regency dress to painstakingly craft a film over two days.

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Picture © Jason Lock Photography +44 (0) 7889 152747 +44 (0) 161 431 4012 info@jasonlock.co.uk http://www.jasonlock.co.uk

The film completed and beautifully edited by Morag (who incidentally makes stunning jewellery too!), the project was put on hold while we staged ShirleyCaroline, Elka and Helen then regrouped to prepare the monologue.

On the weekend of the performances, the weather was beautiful and the trip to lovely Disley by train was swift. Lyme Park looked regal in the morning light, but we had little chance to wander around – Elka was straight into costume, and we hurried to the nursery for the first performance at 11.30am. Three more performances followed that day, and four the next. The room was packed, with audience members huddling up on the little iron-framed bed and clustering around the fireplace at the back. There was a hushed buzz in the nursery, which was thrilling.

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Picture © Jason Lock Photography +44 (0) 7889 152747 +44 (0) 161 431 4012 info@jasonlock.co.uk http://www.jasonlock.co.uk

We experience lovely feedback, and truly enjoyed our experience with Creative Industries Trafford and the National Trust. If “Trust New Art” can afford creatives like us the opportunity to work in places steeped in such rich and intriguing history as Lyme, and continue to introduce new audiences to theatre and art, then we hope the scheme goes on for many years!

Theft of a Girl

After Shirley

Tackling some pretty massive challenges in a very tight space of time appears to be a habit of ours! Shirley may just have been our most ambitious project yet.

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Shirley – the first ever performance adaptation of the Charlotte Brontë novel – has been in the company’s repertoire since we presented a very successful reading of it at the Morley Arts Festival last year – but this time was different. We’d been invited by Carol Nelson of Farfield Mill in the picturesque village of Sedbergh, Cumbria, to bring it to the wonderful industrial-base-turned-arts centre in the form of a promenade. The action would be woven throughout the building; around looms, underneath the building itself in the turbine room and even spread along the walkways leading up to the entrance – so, over an intense few months, the original piece was adapted to fit the new formula and the actors, director and stage manager set to work, creating a whole new show! The themes connected the tribulations of the “Luddites”, and their employers during the industrial revolution, with the general populace of the UK today.

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Sam Redway as Joe Scott in the turbine room at Farfield Mill

In the piece, struggling to compete in the market with all trade frozen by the Napoleonic war, half-Belgian Robert Moore sets about automating his mill in readiness. Already dogged by others’ xenophobia and suspicion, his swift replacement of trained millworkers with modern machinery is quickly making him the most hated man in Stillborough. Even the loving efforts of his sister’s pupil, Caroline, and his unusual new landlady, Shirley, may fail to rescue him from assassination – as his machinery is vandalised and strange men stalk him in the shadows.

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Caroline Lamb as Shirley and Mark Roberts as Robert Moore in the Dover Gallery

Tapping into the history of Farfield really made the place come alive for us. Over just two days, we enjoyed performing the piece five times to lovely audiences, and received great feedback. Audience comments included:

“It was very professional and authentic. The cast captured the sense of the time and portrayed it beautifully.”

“Acting and entire performance wonderful. Felt myself transported back in time.”

“It was original, deftly adapted, excellent use of space and actors’ adaptability to character. Altogether a surprising, engaging production.”

“Very moving. It was superb in every respect.”

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Jo Gerard as Mrs Barraclough at the mill entrance

We want to express our hearty thanks to all who attended and supported us, as well as the officials at the Yorkshire Dales Sustainable Development Fund and the Sedbergh & District Charitable Incorporated Organisation Community Fund for their generosity, and the staff, board and volunteers of Farfield Mill for their wonderful help. Big plans are afoot for Shirley, so watch this space! You can also follow us on Facebook via www.facebook.com/DangerousToKnow or on Twitter via @DTKManc.

After Shirley