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 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.

– – – – – – – –

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

Sophia is backstage! with Glorilla

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Blog by Sophia Moseley

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World we live in and if you were sitting in the audience at the Marine Theatre on Friday night, whilst there was no Jimmy Durante or Spencer Tracey, you still would have been in very good company as Spitz & Co took us into the Kungalunga Jungle to meet Mickey the rather dodgy looking gorilla.

But the evening kicked off with director and banjo playing Angus Barr,

“I’m the warm up act and I’m not just going to sing songs, I’m going to make the world a better place via Lyme Regis…I’m going to start with excessive car insurance premiums”

From which point the audience were in stitches as Angus sang his way through a multitude of politically incorrect and environmental issues including a parody of Petula Clark’s song ‘Downtown’.

So by the time Susie Donkin came on stage everyone was primed and ready for more hilarity and with her agitated portrayal of nervous tour manager, Josephine Cunningham, we soon got the measure of the more confident Gloria Delaneuf played by Pauline Morel who had no interest in promoting their sponsor, Clairol hair products!

From the rather dubious gorilla costume to the wind-up mice that scurried across the stage (until Mickey kicks one into orbit!), it is non-stop madness and mayhem with a rather saucy scene when Gloria strips down to a swimsuit for a quick wash and is then carried off into a small pop-up tent by a very dubious looking Tarzan-esque character and as for what goes on in the little tent, well that’s why the show is for 14+

“Mickey I can explain”

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Josephine as she rushed around like a lunatic doing all she could to help Gloria whilst at the same time shapeshifting from anxious tour manager to horny gorilla cum jungle man, with occasional overlaps of costumes that led to an uproarious reaction from the audience.

 

I don’t think I’ll look at Tarzan in quite the same way again!

Sophia is Backstage! at the Vintage and Handmade Fair

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Words and Image by Sophia Moseley

I met a retired prison officer, a therapist who works with brain injuries and an ME sufferer.

Such was the fascinating background of the stallholders who fashioned the Marine Theatre Vintage & Handmade Fair on Sunday.

Trudi Colley lives nearby and works with brain injury clients in Honiton and Axminster, but she has a lifetime of crafting interest,

“I worked at the Milton Keynes Bowl organising craft fairs so have a pretty good idea how it all comes together”.

With a collection of leather accessories, jewellery and children’s name plaques, Trudi has been creating her range for many years and is always looking to add a new skill to her portfolio,

“I don’t go on holidays, whilst everyone else goes to sunny Spain, I go on craft courses and my next one is on bronze casting and mould making.”

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 Which is when I met her colleague and friend Gillian Beckman-Findlay from Budleigh Salterton who has been crafting for six years,

“I developed ME and was feeling pretty depressed but Trudi bullied me into going to a craft hotel where we made wood plaques. I absolutely loved it and never looked back.”

Having worked as a payroll and accounts manager, Gillian crafts part-time and encourages anyone else to take it up,

“If anyone says they don’t know what to make, I can give them a long list. It’s very therapeutic and Trudi and I are going to craft all day tomorrow!”

And talking of therapy, how about ‘Get Felt’? No, not a Freudian slip but the saucily named business set up by Barbara Stanley and Nick Gomer from Weymouth.

Fair

Barbara and Nick are also musicians playing in the ‘Skint Imperials’ and after her retirement from the prison service, Barbara wanted to do something new,

“I teach crochet and really enjoy creating things”

With her warm waterproof felt hats and crocheted light jar covers I wondered where she gets her inspiration,

“God knows, the ideas just come. My hats evolve, this one started off as a bowler but it became a vintage hat with a brim”

With that philosophy being echoed by everyone; when it comes to vintage and crafting, there’s a passion for the profession and every piece is sold with that personal guarantee of TLC.

Sophia is Backstage! with Atomic Blondie

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words and image by Sophia Moseley

 

I went to a Shakatak concert sometime in the late 1980s in a Bedfordshire village hall; I know, right, the cutting edge of pop music. So when I saw the tribute band Atomic Blondie were performing at the Marine Theatre, I dug out my American punk gear (jeans & T-shirt) to relive those heady disco days.

With an average age of 55 (with a few much younger exceptions) and everyone seated bar one couple and three men who stood in the dance area at the back, I knew I was in for a wild night!

The band kicked off with Losing my Mind, the wife of the standing couple immediately gets into the spirit of things and launches into an energetic dance whilst her husband stands by. The rest of the audience sits obediently.

With Sunday Girl the three men at the back start a few knee bends and gentle bouncing,

“Who remembers the 1980s?” shouts A B. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t.

But with Call Me the husband’s head starts nodding and his right knee bending.

The Tide is High saw a surge of girls and grannies getting up to dance but where were the handbags in the middle of the dance circle (remember that?) and just what is it about men dancing or should that be knee bending and arm swinging?

 

“If you’re not dancing then how about some clapping?” shouts A B. Some of those seated manage it for a few seconds but then it all gets too much and they stop.

Meanwhile the husband has progressed to some toe tapping.

There are a few dance moves I recognise and some lyrics to ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ come back to me so I do that thing of mouthing the ones I know.

My memory of Blondie aka Debbie Harry is of a thin almost gaunt woman with straw like dyed blond hair who hardly moved and that included her mouth; and her eyes had that slightly spaced-out look. So when the voluptuous and vivacious tributee came on stage, who I suspect was at best a baby in the 80s, it somehow didn’t quite gel for me.

I wonder if there’s a Shakatak tribute band, at least I know the words to their songs.

Backstage! with Magnificent Three

image on the way!

words and image by Sophia Moseley

“There will be loud bangs and pyrotechnics”

I had agreed with the Miracle Theatre that it would be wise to announce this before the show started, after all it would never do to have members of the audience having a panic attack or worse; the theatre is to thrill not kill!

There was a bit of a chilly wind blowing in off the sea but at least it wasn’t raining and fortunately most people had sensibly brought blankets and warm jackets.

Now when it comes to the Magnificent Three think Calamity Jane meets Yul Brynner from that famous western and the show’s alter ego, The Magnificent Seven with the same sleepy town where the entertainment is…limited;

“I’m a cocking”

“I’m a running”

“See ya later, come round and throw some stones at some chickens”

“Can’t you see I’m busy” says the sheriff when someone interrupts him throwing peanuts into a glass.

Of course you can’t have a western without a fight so when someone was found cheating at cards, it soon turned into a bar room brawl with slow-mo punches, people catapulting over the bar and chairs being snapped in two.

And when the deputy arrives dragging a metal step ladder across the stage that turns out to be his trusty mule, a member of the audience is soon hauled up to help him mount it!

I have to admit I was waiting for the loud bangs and fire we had been promised and I began to wonder if they’d had second thoughts but when another fight broke out the gunshot rang out and someone threw a grenade of fire that landed in a pot at the edge of the stage. Lucky for those people sitting at the front the actor had a good aim!

Now that would be a calamity!

 

Sophia is Backstage! with The Great Train Robbery

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blog by Sophia Moseley

Expect the unexpected; probably the best advice you could give anyone who books tickets to watch Scratchworks Theatre Company production of The Great Train Robbery,

“We weren’t expecting you to be here” says Co-Artistic Director Alice Higginson to the waiting audience.

Using the greatest train heist in history as the basis of their story, you couldn’t possibly predict what connection the four woman cleaning team that is Sparkles Shine Soap & Sponge can have with Ronnie Biggs and his team of train robbers, but you soon find out,

“I looked for cleaners in the Yellow Pages but it seems there aren’t any men” says the robber who was tasked with finding someone to clean their hideout, Leatherslade Farm in Buckinghamshire.

In their blue boiler suits and white T-shirts, Hanora Kamen, Alice Higginson, Laura Doble and Sian Keen morph from cleaners armed with Marigolds to train robbers armed with balaclavas, to crack shot (or should that be crack pot?!) officers of the Flying Squad armed with kazoos and 1963 bravado,

“Right chaps let’s crack on like a builder’s backside”

And yes, you did read that right – kazoos played an important role in this performance, quite literally and they’re not as easy to play as you think, especially when you’ve been hauled up out of the audience (front row seats come at a price!)

Buzzing the theme tune to Mission Impossible with the youngest member, Alfie who was around 13, kazooing solo while the rest of the audience wiggled their fingers, I think it’s fair to say there was not one person who didn’t have their waving hands in the air.

“Let’s get down to business” say the four Flying Squad officers as they turn their back on the audience to relieve themselves much to the uproarious amusement of the audience, the men probably laughing the loudest.

With miming and rapid role changing they soon have everyone in a chain gang passing the imaginary wads of money to the back of the auditorium.

Runaway trains, cops and robbers and finally escaping with the local W.I it was a non-stop caper of madness and mayhem.

In the meantime I’m off to practice my kazoo skills just in case!

Sophia is Backstage! at Tempest of Lyme

Tempest of Lyme

Words and image by Sophia Moseley

 

Have you ever been an unwitting onlooker to an argument? That moment of discomfort when someone nearby suddenly shouts at another who in turn retorts with equal vigour? Cut to the opening scene of the acclaimed The Tempest of Lyme and if you were there, you’ll know just what I mean!

The opening scene was staged in the auditorium and the audience were gripped by the verbal jousting as the cast seamlessly cut from current day rehearsal dialogue to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, delivering a fast moving quick witted performance as the cast stowed away behind the audience providing plenty of ‘music hall’ jeering and taunts to complement the spat that was taking place,

“Rule number one, grab your audience from the off”

The animal noises made by some of the cast who encircled the audience along with the lighting soon had everyone convinced we had landed on some mysterious hot tropical island, the Island of Devils.

Then with seagulls screeching overhead and the sound of waves rolling into shore and a strong westerly breeze blowing the sail sized flags, the cast, musicians and audience flowed outside where the rest of the story unfurled.

Including one scene that took the audience completely by surprise when drunken Stephano fell out of the Marine Bar doors onto the balcony,

“How dare you throw me out of your bar! A pox on your Palmer’s Ale”

And as he comes swaggering down the stairs the audience are left wondering ‘is he really drunk?’

The music ensemble completed the atmosphere with a mixture of instruments including whirly tubes and rainmakers.

Probably one of my favourite moments was on board the Sea Venture when it was all hands on deck as the ship was tossed about in the storm but the frenzied activity was suddenly freeze-framed as Sylvester Jourdain gave a short narration; then just as quickly everyone returned to their hauling or bailing.

But one thing’s for sure, with the near perfect weather enjoyed every night during this mammoth production, no one can argue it was anything other than superb!

Sophia is Backstage! at Tempest of Lyme

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Behind the scenes with the Tempest’s tech

I’ve always been a little in awe of a Master Chef; their ability to create a culinary masterpiece by pulling together a variety of ingredients leaves me spellbound; and that’s just how I felt when I went along to the technical rehearsal of The Tempest of Lyme.

But instead of Greg Wallace and his team, the Marine Theatre has Clemmie Reynolds who has drawn on the best of local talent including theatre patron and playwright Andrew Rattenbury and a host of singers, dancers, performers and musicians; each of them bringing a vital ingredient to the mix.

I arrived to see the voice coach employing some rather unusual techniques to ensure voices and diaphragms were working hard,

“Bear with me, it’s a bit spontaneous. Put your hands on your belly or better still on your neighbour’s belly; it’s going to pop like a balloon”

There was arm stretching, finger pointing and plenty of curious noises as the performers practiced ‘pop a cat a petal’ much to the bewilderment of Lyme’s Sunday evening strollers.

As I made my way into the theatre, the hive of activity continued. Costumes hanging in rows and makeup experiments as they tried to achieve the best mermaid look using blue eye shadow and netting.

Then there are some who go one step further like Fred Humphrey aka George Somers who has grown a beard for his character, although it hasn’t been easy, he tells me

“I can’t wait to shave it off next week!”

The music ensemble includes Brian Young on guitar,

“I was roped into playing by Wendy”

That’s Wendy Knee who is also playing alongside Marian Gumbrell and the three of them are part of local musical group Saxminster.

As I stand there with the chairs being set out and the stage lighting being synced, there’s a scene being enacted in the middle of the auditorium.

Sylvester Jordan announces,

“Without me there’d be no Shakespeare play, The Tempest”

And I think without Clemmie Reynolds there’d be no Tempest of Lyme!