Lark Rise

Went to our local theatre last night:

Ann Bowes was one of the players and suggested I wrote a review for Valley News (a local monthly journal).

Well, there’s a first time for everything . . .

‘Lark Rise’ at Whitby Pavilion 19 Nov 2011

This version of  ‘Lark Rise’ was adapted by Keith Dewhurst (1978) from the semi-autobiographical novels written by Flora Thompson. The hamlet of Lark Rise (identified with Flora’s Juniper Hill in NE Oxfordshire) sits in rolling corn fields eight miles from Candleford (identified with the town of Buckingham). From the bare earth between the rows of green corn, larks spring into a blue sky, bubbling with song.

Considering my ticket cost only £5, I did not expect too much of the production, but within the first few minutes I was entranced. The Whitby Amateur Dramatic Society gently ushered the audience back in time, through drama, folk-song and dance, into an elegy for late Victorian village life.

The play’s action began at dawn as village women start their labours and a line of scythesmen – striplings and bent old men – marched out to make the first reaping of the year. While they reaped they treated us to a lovely rendition of the folk song, ‘John Barleycorn’, that eventually blended into a hymn. The men returned in the dusk, even more bent, and headed for the ale house. Farm wages were below subsistence level, so each man could barely afford half-a-pint of ale.

While the men were scything the hundred-acre field (once their own ancient common-land, but now enclosed by gentry) the women’s life went through its routines. The postman came, the fishmonger wheeled in his handcart and the pedlar trundled in with pots and pans. Gossips leaned on doorframes.

The script and the cast left us in no doubt that, in the midst of this idyll, life was hard in Lark Rise. Many faces were pinched, pennies were carefully hoarded, the purchase of a simple pot from the pedlar was agonised over. In the background was politics, the struggle for a living wage – with Gladstone as a hope for better times. Despite all that, a rosy glow seemed to pervade the stage – perhaps it came from my modern yearning for a simpler life.

At the close, history caught up with their isolation. The Great War came, took the men away, and sent back a list of the fallen (eleven out of a population of 150). As the names were read out in church, little Edmund Timms (Flora Thompson’s beloved brother) called out across time: ‘But that’s me . . .’

I came away, enchanted by this peep into a lost way of life, but a little sad for that community. Even so, it is wonderful that a local group of amateur players: adults, teenagers and children, can find the resources to give its audience such a good night out. To be able to enjoy the players’ devotion to their art, from a just few yards distance, is so much richer than an evening lounging in front of the TV set.

Harry Nicholson

 

 

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About Harry Nicholson

I'm an enameller who works with a kiln, fusing pictures in glass onto copper. I write a few poems and short stories. There is an eBook anthology of them, 'Green Linnet' on Amazon. Also a novel, 'Tom Fleck', set in the North of England of 1513 - the year of Flodden. A sequel to 'Tom Fleck' is 'The Black Caravel' published in 2016. My anthology of poems came out in 2015: 'Wandering About.' I've a blog of poems, stories and art at: https://1513fusion.wordpress.com/
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14 Responses to Lark Rise

  1. Elizabeth says:

    A lovely review, Harry. I so agree with zongrik’s comment; even small ventures like this are so important in perpetuating the arts and the knock on effects for community survival and well-being are infinite.
    I’m reading your book at the moment – I’ll do a proper review both on my blog and Amazon when I’ve finished, but so far, so very good… x

    • True, Elizabeth. Zongrik has touched the core.
      I’m truly happy to learn you are reading ‘Tom Fleck’. Lately, I’m beginning to understand that there is more of me in the story than I was conscious of during its writing.

  2. zongrik says:

    i think the main this is this -> it is wonderful that a local group of amateur players: adults, teenagers and children, can find the resources to give its audience such a good night out.

    as long as we can keep funding our arts, we still have civilization

  3. A beautiful, descriptive review capturing the spirit in the play!

    I also wanted to thank you for identifying my mystery piece of farming equipment!

  4. 1sojournal says:

    You brought the play alive with all the detail you managed to bring to it. But, as is usual, you also brought alive another time and place. Thank you Harry, you continue to educate,

    Elizabeth
    http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/

  5. earlybird says:

    Sounds like the WADS put on an excellent production.

  6. vivinfrance says:

    Your review is masterly, with a goodly dose of Harry in it. Lark Rise was a great favourite of mine as a child, and I’d love to have seen your local production. Great value for a fiver.

  7. Susannah says:

    Wonderfully written Harry and – “The hamlet of Lark Rise (identified with Flora’s Juniper Hill in NE Oxfordshire) sits in rolling corn fields eight miles from Candleford (identified with the town of Buckingham).” Both of those place are around my neck of the woods (I didn’t realise the connection.)

    Thanks for sharing this with I Saw Sunday Harry. 🙂

  8. Ina says:

    You wrote a very good piece, wish I had been there 🙂 It is a good thing to have culture nearby. I wish I could get myself to go to our local plays. They just don’t seem to be so interesting as this one you reviewed!

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