I was really disappointed last week when my love of horses (see Gadding About with Galahad) meant I was taking part in a show jumping competition when I had been booked to see an outdoor production of Lorna Doone.
Luckily my Mother offered to do a guest blog for me.
We were very sad that Eleanor couldn’t go with us but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.
This was an opportunity to see a proper story retold in its native habitat. Lorna Doone was written by R D Blackmore and is set on Exmoor. The play was performed in the Valley of the Rocks, a site on Exmoor with the added attraction of the Bristol Channel as a backdrop.
The story has been well adapted by Helena Stafford Northcote for Pleasure Dome Theatre and performed to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its publication. Narrative sections were provided by actors striding down aisles and across the ‘stage’ speaking one line each which added urgency to the story. The rough terrain provided natural opportunities for various cameo scenes including throwing a baby into te sea, a discreet killing and the final denouement of the play as Carver Doone fell over the cliff.
It was wonderful to see this Exmoor story brought to life in such rugged scenery and watching the Doones advancing waist deep in bracken sent shivers down the spine. As dusk fell, the lights of Wales appeared over the sea adding a final magic to the story. The setting was wild and rugged but, dare I say it, that very naturalness created a rival to the manicured and concrete Minack. A far better place to bring the story of Lorna and John to life.
Sorry Eleanor. You missed a wonderful evening.
I was very sorry to miss what sounded like an excellent production. I have been wanting to see a play in the Valley o the Rocks for several years and was very much looking forward to it. I will have to make sure that I get there next year.
What a difference a couple of days make! Two days after the Midsummer Night’s Dream performance I was back outside to see Heartbreak Production’s Private Lives.
We were in another beautiful location but this time we had steady, heavy rain for almost the entire show. It only really stopped right at the very end – the complete opposite of the last performance. We were very British though and hunkered down in our waterproofs to enjoy the show. I also copied the lady in front and kept my umbrella over my knees which worked brilliantly.
I had never seen Private Lives before and I didn’t really know the plot either. Except that a some point somebody would be wearing pyjamas!
I loved the play. We get so few opportunities to see real, proper plays that I leap at every chance I get and I revel in the intellectual experience. It was quite intellectual too – Private Lives is not very plot driven but is all about the conversation so you really have to listen. It was excellent.
The only things which jarred somewhat were the extra little scenes involving the hotel staff which the company had added in. I didn’t really understand what they were trying to achieve and I would rather have just had the play.
However, I still very much enjoyed myself and, as I said, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to see the play. The rain didn’t damp our spirits and, although it put us off eating much, our picnic became a lovely after theatre supper when we got home!
Last night I went to an outdoor theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Immersion Theatre. I love the atmosphere of open air theatre so I was looking forward to it but was also very concerned that it would have to be moved indoors. It had rained for most of the morning and although it brightened up in the afternoon it was raining again when I left work. Luckily it had stopped by the time I got to the venue and they had decided to go ahead outside. They had set up inside as well though – just in case!
Outdoor theatre is not complete without a picnic!
We arrived nice and early which meant that we had excellent seats right at the front. The cast roamed through the audience chatting with us before the play started which was a lovely way to make us feel involved. Of course, me being me, I was worried about being called on for audience participation but it wasn’t a problem and I could relax and enjoy the show.
I was right in the middle of the action – this was the sleeping Hermia at the end of the interval.
Enjoy it I did too. It was an hilarious production and I haven’t laughed so much for quite some time. The actors in small travelling companies never cease to amaze me with their ability to play several parts at once – and be convincingly different characters. There were several impressively quick changes too!
By far the most dramatic moment though had nothing to do with the acting. Thisbe was in the middle of her death scene when, with absolutely no warning, the heavens opened and the rain just poured down. It was so loud! The poor actors were immediately drenched and we weren’t much better but dramatically speaking the timing just couldn’t have been better.
Sadly it wasn’t really possible to continue so we missed out on Puck’s epilogue but it was actually quite fitting to end with Theseus’ words, ‘No epilogue, I pray you; your play needs no excuse.’
This was us by the end – soaking wet but still reluctant to leave!
After that there was nothing to be done but go home, dry off and read the ending for myself.
I had the most fantastic evening. The play is almost at the end of its tour now but if Immersion Theatre are playing near you I would highly recommend going to see them. I will certainly be doing so if they are in this area again.
The main reason for my Scotland trip was to stay in Pitlochry for the festival theatre there. I love going to the theatre but – at least locally – we don’t seem to get many proper plays so I was very much looking forward to my trip.
The theatre famously states that you can, ‘Stay six days, see six plays.’ We were a little early in the season for that but I still had a choice of four. I decided against The Crucible as it traumatised me when I had to study it at school. Watching Jo March (Winona Ryder) playing Abigail Williams in the film was just too disturbing for me!
The theatre has the best views
That still left me with a choice of three shows though. The first I went to see was Blonde Bombshells of 1943, which tells the story of Betty – a band leader whose band has landed a BBC performance just when she has lost half her players. The auditions and rehearsals were so entertaining and it was a great show. I especially enjoyed the performance of Tilly-Mae Millbrook who played Miranda.
Next I saw Blithe Spirit – a story I know very well as I have seen the film several times. This was my favourite of the week – a real classic play. I loved Eddie – played by David Rankine – a different take on the maid character.
Finally, I went to see Summer Holiday which was of course a lot of fun. It was a bit too noisy for me but that is the case for any musical. I enjoyed myself but it reinforced something which really I already knew – for me, plays are the thing.
I’ve never had the opportunity to see repertory theatre before and I loved being able to watch the same people play different characters through the week. They really did change, which just shows what great actors they are.
I had the best time – a whole week immersed in stories was just wonderful. I do so enjoy the theatre and I must make the effort to get to more plays – even if I have to travel a bit further to get there.