The final push before the after-show party by actor writer David Ruffle

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Photo by Simon Emmett

With the opening night of Monmouth fast approaching, we are all working hard and looking very closely at those last minute essentials: just what do we wear to the after show parties? How quickly can we get to the bar? At what point does Declan whip out his guitar?

The last big push (not to the bar) sees the last four rehearsals where all the fine tuning will be completed and suddenly we have a show on our hands. It’s been hard work getting to this point, months of it in fact. My own involvement goes back to February and the performed reading of the play, even at the very beginning we knew Andy Rattenbury had written something very special and it has been fascinating to watch it all come together.

I get asked many questions about the show, well not that many, but we won’t quibble. For instance; how will the cast feel after the show? Euphoric that we can now shave off our beards, although to be fair, that mostly applies to the men. And it will mean I am no longer mistaken for ex town councillor, Chris Clipson! Are there any similarities between the characters and those who play them? Well, the Duke of Monmouth (Nick Ivins) was charismatic, was often gloriously clothed in purple, had a commanding presence, was ruggedly handsome. Nick sometimes wears purple. Spooky. John Gooden plays the sadistic Judge Jeffreys and the executioner, Jack Ketch. In reality, John wouldn’t hurt a fly although that’s what was said about Norman Bates at the end of Psycho!

The truth for all of us is that in spite of the hard graft we will miss all of it and especially the camaraderie when it is all over and we stumble home in the early hours of the Sunday morning following the last night.   The opening night is 6th July, the anniversary of the Battle of Sedgemoor. A popular misconception is that Monmouth’s rebel army were outnumbered by their Royalist counterparts, but that was not so. Although poorly equipped the rebels numbered upwards of four thousand. Monmouth decided on a risky strategy, a night attack on the Royal camp. The tactic had been used before albeit infrequently and was fraught with danger.  Leaving Bridgwater at about 10 p.m., the Rebel army moved slowly and as silently as possible along the old Bristol road towards Bawdrip. Turning south along Bradney Lane and Marsh Lane, with the cavalry leading, they came to the open level moor with its deep and dangerous rhines. It is remarkable that even allowing for the dark and the mist that this body of men and horses which stretched almost a mile were able to go undetected by the frequent Royalist patrols. Only two and a half miles away their enemy lay. At the Langmoor Rhine the crossing was missed.  After searching in an agony of delay, the route over was found but the first men across startled a cavalry trooper from Compton’s patrol, who fired his pistol and galloped off to report. The pistol shot was not heard at Weston Zoyland, but to the rebels it meant the total failure of a surprise attack, their one hope of success in the campaign.

Warning of Monmouth’s approach was sent back to Weston, and with the call of ‘Beat the drums, the enemy is come’ the royal army prepared for action hastily but without confusion. The rebel cavalry, under Lord Grey, rode forward but failed to find the plungeon or crossing over the Bussex Rhine and were forced by the infantry fire into confusion and panic. A few tried to secure the second crossing of the rhine but also failed. The uncontrollable horses fled into some of the oncoming rebel infantry, adding to the confusion. Nevertheless, the rebel infantry still advanced towards the royal army, and the Dutch gunners with their little cannon, caused considerable casualties among their opponents. But the infantry could not cross the rhine. Cavalry also rode out across the plungeons as the patrols began to come in towards the sounds of battle, and with a pincer movement they attacked the main body of the rebels who continued to fight bravely, though their leaders had decided on flight and were riding off towards the Polden Hills and Bristol. There followed a dreadful slaughter of the fleeing rebels, cut down where they were overtaken. In five short hours it was all over. The rebellion had failed. Monmouth was taken as he made his way to Poole and beheaded on the 15th July barely a month after his triumphant landing at Lyme.

Tickets for Monmouth are selling fast at the Tourist Information Centre. Please come and see our representation of not just an important part of Lyme’s history, but of the nation’s history.

David Ruffle www.storiesfromlymelight.blogspot.com

Hail Hail, The Ship Is Here!…

Written by ‘Monmouth’ Trainee-Producer & Actress Becky Varndell

With just two weeks to go until the opening night of our Lyme Regis Community Play ‘Monmouth’, the cast and crew have been very busy rehearsing and putting the finishing touches together.

On Sunday evening we donned our 17th century costumes and headed for the Cobb in sweltering conditions to practice the pre-play procession. We got some odd looks from the hoards of holidaymakers enjoying their chips along the seafront but generally generated a lot of excitement as we paraded past practicing our rebellion songs.

The rehearsal was fantastic and despite the heat everyone was in very high spirits; dedicated, energetic and open to new developments. It’s so fantastic to observe a wide-ranging group of local people of all ages and abilities coming together to create a community. It really has become something of a family.

Speaking of local talents we are thrilled to have renowned local photographer Si Emmett as our official ‘Monmouth’ photographer. He came along with us on Sunday to take some photographs of the Duke of Monmouth’s landing on the Cobb and the subsequent rebellion procession up to the theatre. Take a look at some of his fantastic photographs:

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‘Monmouth’ will be performed at the Marine Theatre on 6,7,8 & 13,14,15 July

The optional pre-play procession begins at 6.45pm on the sandy beach and the play begins at 7.30pm inside the Marine Theatre (approx two hours running time including interval).

Book your tickets here or contact Lyme Regis Tourist Information Centre on 01297 442138.

Imaginary muskets. Just imagine…

Written by ‘Monmouth’ actor and writer David Ruffle

…well, you’ll have to of course. A substantial part of a recent ‘Monmouth’ rehearsal involved how to make an audience believe we are actually holding weapons when we are in fact the last people that should be entrusted with such devices. It’s not too dissimilar to the playing of air guitars although performing the solos from ‘Free Bird’ on any form of 17th century weaponry would, I imagine, be fairly problematic in itself. Still, we gave it our best shot, pun intended.

Johnnie Hoskins, the movement director for ‘The Tempest of Lyme’ was patience itself as he took us through our paces with various degrees of mime required to perfect our musketry talents. One thing you must know about imaginary muskets once the art has been mastered is the weight! For instance, I managed to drop mine twice! I looked around sheepishly as it clattered to the stage, but then realised that…hey…imaginary muskets make no noise.

Photographs by Simon Emmett

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Immediately after that rehearsal a few of us headed, in costume, to the Volunteer for a spot of filming that will be used during the performance. In order not to upset the locals we took the sensible option of leaving our muskets at the theatre for being in possession of an imaginary weapon in public is a criminal offence in wide areas of Dorset.  The Volunteer customers must be used to such spectacles as costumed thespians invading their pub as, when the laughter died down,  they did not bat a communal eyelid. We were all much gratified to find the beer was not imaginary and as much fun as all that was, perhaps the highlight of the evening was the sight of Steve and Brian Rattenbury at the checkout in Tesco looking more resplendent than any Tesco   customer perhaps has a right to.  Steve, expecting to buy his milk for a groat was being overly optimistic. To add insult to injury, he had neglected to bring his Rebellion Club Card!

Next door to Tesco is Boot’s the Chemist and it was in a house on that site where Judge Jeffreys , the ‘Hanging’ judge dined with Gregory Alford, the Mayor of Lyme Regis during the time of the ‘Bloody Assizes’. George Jeffreys was Lord Chancellor at the time of the Monmouth rebellion and was sent to the West country to conduct the trials of captured rebels. One thousand, three hundred and eighty-one of these rebels were found guilty of treason and although the penalty for the offence of treason was death, this was inflicted on, perhaps only half of those found guilty. Owing to that, it is possible therefore to cut Jeffreys some slack and present a case for him not being as harsh and vindictive as history paints him. All that was required of Jeffreys was to impose the sentence required by law. It was up to King James to commute the sentences under the prerogative of mercy. It was his failure to do so that made the reprisals so savage. Jeffreys was to fall foul of William after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and ended his days in the Tower of London in 1689 albeit through illness rather than execution.

Gregory Alford was the son of Richard Alford who also served as Mayor. Both were the most prominent men of Lyme in their time. During the siege of Lyme in 1644 these ‘prominent men’ actually fought with the Royal army against Parliamentarian Lyme. Indeed, the family home, Haye House became the headquarters for Prince Maurice. After the Royal army was repulsed his father was imprisoned and his own property sequestered. Back he came though and was a member of the Town Council by 1661, eventually rising to become, of course, Mayor. Described as an ultra-Royalist, Gregory Alford was the scourge of Lyme’s dissenters, taking every chance to persecute them, adjudging them to be enemies of Church and State. That someone like him could operate as the chief citizen of a town like Lyme is explained by the fact that he was put in the post of Mayor through King James and the Privy Council. He was forced upon Lyme. It was no surprise that he rode hard to Honiton to raise the alarm after Monmouth successfully disembarked at Lyme. The atmosphere in town as he blithely dined with Jeffreys can be imagined as Jeffrey’s express purpose in being there was to organise and oversee the hanging and quartering of the twelve unfortunate rebels who were to meet their grisly end on the spot where Monmouth first stepped on the beach which would later bear his name. Alford died in 1697, still a citizen of Lyme. The history books are silent on how many mourned him.

Tickets for Monmouth are on sale now at the Tourist Information Centre and will be performed on the 6th,7th,8th,13th,14th and 15th of July.

www.storiesfromlymelight.blogspot.com

Dorset Magazine ‘Monmouth’ Photo Shoot

This Monday 22nd May some of the ‘Monmouth’ cast got kitted up in their 17th century costumes (created by the talented Rose May) and headed out to the Lyme Regis seafront along with ‘Monmouth’ director Clemmie Reynolds.

They donned their best rebellious poses standing behind Clemmie whilst local Lyme Regis based photographer Si Emmett snapped away, making sure to capture the stunning Jurassic Coast in the background.

Look out for the portrait and an exclusive interview with Clemmie in the July issue of Dorset Magazine!

Meanwhile here are a few snaps our assistant director Alex took of the shoot…

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Get your tickets for ‘Monmouth’ HERE!

Greenstuffs and Rootes

“ ..five or six pieces of Butcher’s Meat…. …a little Salt and Mustard upon the Side of a Plate, a Bottle of Beer and a Roll; and there is your whole Feast”

Written by ‘Monmouth’ actress and local writer Maya Pieris

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This was Monsieur Misson’s view of an English meal which we would happily recognise today! Though not even a roastie! Vegetables were still viewed with suspicion in the 17th century. Knowledge about the body and diet was developing as were the skills of horticulture largely aided by our Dutch cousins and markets were increasingly sourcing new foods from the growing trade with the world including “verangenes” or aubergines, one of those products viewed as” very dangerous and hurtful”. John Evelyn, poet and foodie, was a veg enthusiast and wrote Acetaria, A Discourse of Sallets though his friend Samuel Pepys was very much a meat man and no veg man! He made very little mention of “greenstuffs” in his diary though that is not to say he didn’t eat them. Certainly exotic fruits were becoming a status symbol and the pineapple was to become the prime example of this over the coming centuries even featuring as a must have garden ornament. Vegetables did, however, appear on the menu and were often also cooked in a more sweet than savoury way. I have selected two of the least popular vegetables from my childhood, both cooked in a way even my mum never thought of doing! Both work as stand -alone meals or as accompaniments to meat and fish.

Roasted Turnip- for one

1 medium size turnip, large if you like

Approximately 10g unsalted butter

½ tsp dark brown sugar

Buttered foil squares big enough to wrap the turnip

Peel the turnip, cut the top off and gauge out some of the turnip, mix with the butter and sugar and replace as best you can! Wrap in the buttered foil and bake at 350F, Gas Mark 4 or 170 C for about 45 minutes or till cooked- use a knife to check if they are cooked through. I also do this by finely slicing the turnip using a food processor and placing in a buttered dish and melting the butter and sugar and pouring over the turnip slices, covering with foil and cooking for a similar time. This works well if doing several turnips.

Spinach Condiment suitable for “a Sick Man’s Diet”

225g fresh spinach, washed and chopped.

Juice of 2 oranges

Tblsp cider or white wine vinegar

25g unsalted butter

Seasoning

Cook the spinach gently with the orange juice and vinegar in a pan till almost a puree, “pult” in the original recipe, then stir in the butter and seasoning. I think it best served warm –goes well with salmon or with eggs baked in it for about 4/5 minutes and a Spinach Condiment to Accompany Fish

Make An Excellent Cake from The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened, 1669

Written by local writer, playwright & ‘Monmouth’ actress Maya Pieris

Maya

“Sugar and spice and all things nice” were even more welcome in 1669 after Lent which was observed religiously and culinarily in a much more serious way. Many foods were banned with fish being popular on the menu. Spiced breads and cakes were the post Lent treat and have long been associated with festivals. Cakes, prior to the development of baking powder in the early 1800’s, were enriched bread doughs laden down with butter, sugar, eggs, spices and dried fruits especially currants whose name is a corruption of “Corinthe” as they were known as Raisins of Corinthe. Now not the most popular of the dried grapes they were heavily used in festive cakes from medieval times on. As was saffron- very popular in the West Country one theory being that it was brought in by Phoenician traders. Caraway was also a popular flavouring especially in breads called Wiggs, thought to derive from old English for wedge as these buns were often broken into large pieces. They continued to be popular into the 19th century but like Seed Cake have fallen from flavour! A recipe for them will go into the theatre’s website. The following recipe comes from a fascinating collection put together by the Sir Kenelm Digby, the ultimate Renaissance man- soldier, scholar, collector and married to one of the Stuart beauties, Venetia Digby painted on her death bead by Van Dyke. He is also an ancestor of the current Digby family long connected with Dorset. The cake uses lots of butter and I have made it rather as a lardy cake is made with the butter and fruit added to the dough by rolling and folding it in. And it needs eating within a day or two! Icing is optional but adds to it. And don’t expect this to be like your standard Hot X Bun!

Easter Wiggs 

10g fresh yeast or a sachet of dried –start fresh activate start off in a little warmed milk and a tsp sugar

6fl oz warmed milk, more if needed

1 egg beaten

50g sugar

250g unsalted butter

500g white bread flour

1 tsp caraway gently crushed if you have a pestle and mortar

Good pinch of ground cloves, mace and nutmeg

1/2tsp salt

If using fresh yeast mix with a little milk and sugar and leave till it starts to bubble, about 10 minutes. Rub the butter into the flour, stir in the caraway seeds, spices, sugar and fresh or dried yeast and then add the milk and egg. Mix briefly together then cover with a damp cloth or cling film and leave to rise for a couple of hours. You can do this in a food processor. When risen knock back, form into  4 large rounds and place on a greased baking tray, cover and leave to rise for about 30 minutes. Bake at Gas Mark 6, 200 C or 400 F for about 30 minutes but check after 20 minutes. Great toasted and buttered.

Spiced cake  

560g white bread flour

225g unsalted butter

20g sugar

330g currants

2fl oz sherry

5fl oz beer more if needed

¼ tsp ground cloves, nutmeg and mace

½ tsp cinnamon,

Good pinch of saffron

1 tblsp rosewater

15g dried or 25g fresh yeast

Heat the saffron in the sherry and beer, leave to infuse for a few minutes then strain. Sift the flour and spices together. Rub in 100g of butter. If using fresh yeast add to the liquid and leave for a few minutes to bubble. If using dried yeast stir into the flour. Pour the liquid including the rosewater into the flour, incorporate and then kneed for about 10 minutes till the dough forms a ball. Or put the flour and liquid into a food processor and follow the instructions for making bread. Leave the dough in a warm place, covered, till about double in size. Turn out onto a floured board, roll out to an oblong and dot 2/3rds of the dough with the remaining softened butter and currants. Fold one end into the middle and then the other end over that and roll out. Give the dough a ½ turn and repeat the process 2 or 3 times. Form into a circle and place in a greased 8” tin with a solid base not a spring clip tin and gently ease the dough to the sides, cover and leave for about 30 minutes. Bake at 180C, Mark 4 or 350 F for about 40 minutes checking it doesn’t catch.

Icing 

225g granulated sugar

2 tblsp rosewater

Place in a pan and heat till the sugar has dissolved then heat for a few minutes till thickened taking care the mixture doesn’t “spit”. Pour over the cake and return to the oven on a low heat, 150 C, Gas Mark 2, 330 F, for about 15 minutes to “candy”.

The Rebellion begins….

Written by local writer and ‘Tempest of Lyme’ & ‘Monmouth’ actor David Ruffle

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Monday 27th March saw the opening rehearsal for this year’s community play, Monmouth. Although the rebellion, led by the Duke of Monmouth, took place in 1685 and only lasted a few short weeks, it is commemorated to this day in Lyme. The ‘rebellious’ town of Lyme and its people suffered for their Protestant sympathies. It was an extraordinary time of bravery, fiery passions and ultimately grief. That is the story we hope to tell, perhaps as it has never been told before.

The scene that was worked on was the opening scene that involves disembodied voices that became more bodied as the evening wore on! It’s striking how what starts as a reading can become a performance in the course of an evening, how even the smallest of parts can offer so much in interpretation. To set the scene: There is a group of seemingly disparate women awaiting the arrival of an older woman. Who are they? Where are they? The woman they are expecting, they are in awe of, but jealous too even uncomfortable in her presence.  This woman is Alice Hawkier (a fictional character) who has been in exile in France for many, many years. A woman whose whole life has been shaped by her association and indeed her love for the Duke of Monmouth. This will be her story, her epitaph for she is at the end of her life. Has she come here to die? To confess? For vengeance? Alice is played by Lyme stage stalwart, Anne King and for those of you familiar with Anne, a sterling local talent, you know you are going to see an excellent performance. In fact it is already a great performance! As the evening progressed not only did we discuss the motivation of each and every character, but we argued on the essence of history itself, how suffering and destruction resounds through the ages, how our lives are shaped by what has gone before. And you thought we just sat around reading lines and drinking tea! Okay, admittedly, we did have tea, but in an astonishing oversight, particularly for those of us involved in The Tempest of Lyme, the bourbons and custard creams were entirely absent. It may not seem a huge deal, but I think the Trustees should look closely at the whole issue of snack provisions at rehearsals.

The next rehearsal is a full read-through by the cast where very quickly things will begin falling into place. Watch this space.  If anyone wants to be involved in the production please contact the theatre. There is still time to help financially to assist the production of this wonderful venture and who knows, the cast could end up with chocolate hob-nobs!

All the world’s a stage but there’s nothing like home grown and local…

…and not just food!

Written by Maya Pieris

Plays and poetry, in playwright David Edgar’s opinion, are natural bedfellows and I would agree, as for this article I’m deserting my preferred area of poetry for plays, in particular the community play. And where I live we are not short of excellent examples.

Having just been at a NODA awards dinner, where the Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis, won a regional award for its 2016 community production of The Tempest of Lyme, I’d say the am-dram world is very much alive and high kicking! The community play owes a debt to Ann Jellicoe, actor, writer and director, who inspired the community play concept in London before moving to Lyme Regis with her artist husband Roger Mayne. For Jellicoe, the community play had to be the result of a long period of research with the chosen community in order to artistically embed the subject matter of the play, with the people who were to perform it and in the location. And the female perspective is often central, as in her play Western Women, which looked at the role of women in the Siege of Lyme during the Civil War.

At this very moment, cast members from Dorchester to Lyme taking in Bridport on the way are at some stage in production for three community plays, a scene no doubt repeated around the country. The Lyme Regis and Dorchester plays are using community histories as their starting points. For Lyme’s Marine Theatre this is to be the Monmouth Rebellion, a pivotal period in West Country history especially in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, and one which still lingers in folk memory and in place names. A lot of scene setting is being done beforehand, both for the theatre community and the potential audience through talks, workshops and other theatre-based events which allow funds to be raised as well as raising a wider awareness of the play. And the local press are helping to get the town in the “mood” by running a series of food related columns devoted to 17th century recipes! The Bridport play has taken as its story the idea of a flea circus led by Madame Celine and has ukuleles at the musical heart showing how varied the subject matter can be for a community play but all sharing community as the starting point.

For more information about these three community plays look on their websites. And come to all if you can!

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/monmouth-lyme-regis-community-play-2017

ukuleleopera.org.uk

www.dorchestercommunityplay.org.uk

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Last summer’s Marine community play ‘The Tempest of Lyme’

 

A Flavour of the Monmouth Rebellion

Written by ‘Monmouth’ actress Maya Pieris

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Samuel Pepys diary entry of November 12th, 1661 records going to “the Grayhound in Fleet Streete, and there drank some Raspbury Sack and eat some Sasages”.

So sausages, it seems, have been a firm favourite with the British for some time! And no doubt the soldiers in both armies at the Battle of Sedgemoor would have eaten one or two in their time possibly even cooking them in the camp fire stock pot. The battle was a pivotal moment in The Monmouth Rebellion which is the subject of the next Lyme Regis community play, “Monmouth”, following hard on the heels of last summer’s award winning The Tempest of Lyme. This play saw the community play idea revived in a town which had played a pivotal part in the development of this approach to theatre back in the 1970’s led by British playwright, theatre director and actress Ann Jellicoe. Monmouth will be performed on July 6th-8th and 13th-15th at the Marine Theatre and you can phone 01297 442394 or look at the Marine Theatre website for further details.

So to help us get into “the mood” the View From Lyme will be featuring a series of seventeenth century recipes over the coming weeks to give you a flavour of those times. We hope to highlight local producers and retailers who have “enlisted” in the project and will be “raising the colours” for the play. We start with a dish of sausages cooked in currants, wine and butter and served with buttered rice, not unlike Pilau Rice, curry being a newcomer to the British diet along with the potato which was beginning to feature on the dinner tables of the wealthy, yet to be mashed as a partner for the sausage or “sosige” as it was also spelt! Serve these sausages in a dish surrounded by “sippets”, little pieces of toast probably a memory of the bread trencher “plates” of the earlier medieval period.

To Stew Sausages for two people

  • 6 good quality sausages preferably from a butcher
  • 25g currants simmered in water till plumped up
  • 10g unsalted butter
  • 5g brown sugar
  • 4 fl oz white wine- either sweet or dry
  • Seasoning
  • Small piece of toast to decorate and mop up the sauce

Simmer the sausages in water for about 20 minutes till cooked, strain and put on a plate. Place the remaining ingredients in the same pan, heat gently till the butter and sugar are incorporated then add the sausages and cook further till the sauce is slightly reduced and season to taste. Serve with the toast as decoration on a bed of the following rice.

Buttered Rice

  • 110g rice
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Place the rice in a pan, just cover with water and simmer for about 10 minutes till cooked adding more water if necessary. Strain and add remaining ingredients stirring in thoroughly and serve with the sausages.

Backstage guest Blog! Labels

words by Joe Sellman-Leava and Michael Woodman, Co-Artistic Directors, Worklight Theatre

We are proper excited to bring Labels to Lyme Regis!  Joe, who wrote and performs in the show, was lucky enough to teach the Marine Theatre’s youth theatre group from 2012-2013, but this will be the first time we’ve performed a show here, so we can’t wait!

Since Edinburgh 2015, we’ve done over 180 performances of the show around the UK and Australia, and are soon heading off the USA and Singapore with it too. And there’s two things we’ve loved most:

The first is seeing so many places we might not otherwise get the chance to. 

The second is the discussions we have with audiences after the show. It sparks conversation, stories, even debates. People are keen to share their own experiences of prejudice, labelling and family.

We thought 2015 would be the peak of bad news when it came to the refugee crisis and far-right politics, but 2016 has taken things to frightening new levels. Labels is a drop in the ocean and we won’t pretend for a second that a small theatre show alone can change the world. 

But at a time when divisions are deeply felt by many of us, and deliberately exploited by a few of us, using storytelling, comedy and theatre to bring people together in dialogue seems like a good start.

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Thanks to WorkLight Theatre, we are looking forward to the show on Thursday night!