Thursday, 13 July 2017

Monmouth: a great story well told

On a balmy summer night, we pootle down to Lyme Regis and manage to find a space in the car park near the Cobb.

We don't want to be late because we understand a certain gentleman is due to arrive, along with a small band of supporters.

We're here to see Monmouth, the Lyme Regis community play and we want to be in on the action, right at the start. You see it was here, in June 1685, that the Duke of Monmouth landed, intent on gathering a rebel army along the way to seize the throne from his unpopular uncle, James II.

The Monmouth Rebellion, which I've written about before, led to the last battle on English soil, some thirty four years after the English Civil War. 

It could have worked but, for many reasons, it didn't. It was a sad episode in our history. And the bloody aftermath was shocking, with the notorious Judge Jeffreys ordering men to be hanged, drawn and quartered, left, right and centre, their remains displayed around villages and towns to act as a warning against future dissent.

Others were transported as slaves to the West Indies. I'll never really be sure what happened to my ancestors who were caught up in the Rebellion.
Monmouth director Clemmie Reynolds. Picture: Simon Emmett
And when Alice, the central character in Monmouth played by a mesmerising Anne King, asks the audience who would have stayed to fight such a hopeless fight, it was a poignant moment. How many of us would really give up our lives for such a cause? Wouldn't it be easier to keep our heads down and say nothing and try to get on with our lives as best we can?

In Andrew Rattenbury's play, there are many moments which resonate with the happenings in today's troubled word.

But from the start on the beach to the procession along Marine Parade behind the enigmatic Duke (an incredible debut performance by photographer Nick Ivins), with assorted members of the cast giving lofty proclamations along the way, to the play itself at the wonderfully-located Marine Theatre overlooking the sea, the production is an absolute joy to the end.

Some incredible performances and a great story well told by Rattenbury and director Clemmie Reynolds make this an unforgettable event.

Don't take my word for it - read this review by Gay Pirrie-Weir in the Fine Time Recorder and another review by writer Sophia Moseley to find out more.

Monmouth's last night at Lyme is on Saturday but the production will tour Dorset, Devon and Somerset in Autumn 2017:

Wednesday 13 September – Regal Theatre, Minehead
Thurs 14 September – Phoenix, Exeter
Fri 15 September – Bridport Arts Centre
Fri 29 September – Shelley Theatre, Bournemouth
Sun 8 October – Dorchester Arts Centre
Sat 11 November – Beehive Honiton

Be a part of it.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The National Trust casts its spell

It's Mr Grigg's birthday and I've splashed out and bought us joint membership to The National Trust.

It wasn't that expensive and we should have joined years ago. We're surrounded by beautiful stately homes and are regular visitors to this place, just up the road from us in Lush Places.

It's the highest point in Dorset (one of my friends got deliciously lost here, which she recounts in this blog post on Totally Dorset). Lewesdon looks down on The Enchanted Village like a protective parent.

But joining the Trust was always something we were going to do when we had more time. And, besides, it's what old people do, and we're not that old. Yet.

And then my work changed (hey, if there is anyone who needs a writer, please get in touch!) and I suddenly had more time. And, after a conversation with my young stonemason nephew (who has worked on the glorious Tyntesfield, which I am saving up to visit on a metaphorical rainy day), I decided now was as a good a time as ever.

The cards and car parking sticker arrived just in time for Mr Grigg's birthday, so we've just spent several, rather wonderful, hours wandering around my favourite National Trust mansion - Barrington Court, near Ilminster, Somerset. This was one of the trust's original properties. 

It's just a few miles from where I was born and brought up. I first visited it with my family back in the 1960s and I remember being entranced by this piece of old Somerset. The traditional estate fencing and parkland trees got my heart racing, even before I reached the house.

Some years later, Mr Grigg and I went to Barrington Court when it was home to a rather snooty interiors company. The magic had disappeared.  Now, though, the company has moved on. Barrington Court is as I remembered it, all those years ago: a fine, Tudor mansion with the unmistakable and wonderful 1920s touch of Colonel Abraham Arthur Lyle and his architect, James Edwin Forbes.

You can read more about it here.

The gardens were looking absolutely stunning. There were people having picnics and children playing hoopla on the lawn.  A cricket match was underway on the pitch just beyond a stream and a herd of cattle gently lolloped across the meadow in front of the house. The steward we met at the door was a mine of information and absolutely charming. Even the cake at the cafe was brilliant.

This will be the first trip of many, I think. I don't want the magic to end.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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