Dorchester's Community Plays
Uniquely, over the past thirty years we have staged 6 community plays and in April this year we will be staging the 7th, Spinning the Moon by Stephanie Dale. This is Stephanie’s second time under commission with us – she co-wrote A Time to Keep with David Edgar in 2007. Follow our progress towards Spinning the Moon: www.spinningthemoon.org.uk
Spinning the Moon will be performed at The Thomas Hardye School from Monday 6th April to Saturday 18th April 2020 for 11 nights with NO performance on Good Friday 10th or Easter Sunday 12th April. However, there is still much to be done in engaging with the wider community, raising funds, holding events and continuing to build excitement as the production phase continues. Tickets will be available from Monday 10th February, online and in person from Dorchester Arts: www.dorchesterarts.org.uk
Play Office & Costume workshop:
Spinning the Moon is a compelling new community play based on documents provided by the DCPA Research Group.
Set in the early 16th century, the play, like Shakespeare’s history plays, has taken a sense of what was happening in Dorset over a fifty-year period and has conflated those happenings to create a work of dramatic fiction.
Central to the action are the Trenchard family, who lived at Wolfeton House on the outskirts of Dorchester. The Trenchards are desperately trying to stop their home, and the people who work their land, from spinning towards economic collapse and ruining the lives of all who depend on the estate for their livelihoods. But the advice they take from a monk leaves their community fractured to the point of violent disintegration.
Characters in the play include: the Trenchard family, farmers, shepherds and their families, the Queen of Spain and her entourage and the cunning women who live in the hills.
A very succesful community theatre conference
Our first national community theatre conference in collaboration with Dorchester Arts took place on Saturday 15th September. The conference was held in memory of founder, Honorary Life President and revered pioneer of Community Theatre, Ann Jellicoe who died in August last year.
Around fifty delegates attended and were informed and enthused by a knowledgeable and inspiring panel of speakers including Andy Barrett, Peter Cann, Stephanie Dale, David Edgar, Steph Green, Jon Oram and Sarah Weston. Each speaker took to the floor and spoke enthusiastically about their particular experience and view of community theatre, this was discussed further by each panel and then opened to questions from the floor.
One delegate commented:
"I really appreciated the opportunity to find out more about the life and work of Ann Jellicoe and to meet so many people who had been involved in some way in the Dorchester Community Plays over the years.
David Edgar’s talk was extremely thought provoking. I have been reflecting on my participation in the recent National Theatre community performance of Pericles and its legacy. I’ve been thinking about the difference between community and participatory theatre and where the boundaries lie between the two. The Director, Emily Lim said, “Public Acts (the NT's new initiative to create extraordinary acts of theatre and community) is founded on the belief that theatre can be a force for change, bringing communities together to experience the power of collective purpose and imagination.” I believe Pericles certainly achieved that aim."
We know through the process of six previous community plays that this is certainly the case.
Stephanie Dale, playwright for Dorchester’s 7th community play, also spoke about the support of Dorchester Arts in working together with the DCPA to bring something unique to the town and members of the community; “Today is our first national conference on community theatre and also the launch of Spinning the Moon, the seventh play for DCPA, it will be directed by Peter Cann with music by Tim Laycock.”
The play’s director Peter Cann talked about the ethos of community plays; “The idea is it’s inclusive of the whole community, anybody can be involved from any age and background with any degree of experience. We are very excited, it’s a really exciting play. It will be the first time I have been involved in a play in Dorchester, but I have done a lot of community plays in other countries at a variety of venues.”
Ann Jellicoe was the first woman to have a play on the main stage at the Royal Court Theatre and as a result of a desire to live in the countryside, she unwittingly created a new, dynamic form of theatre in her daughter’s school.
Ann’s form of community theatre involves hundreds of local people coming together to put on a play about its past. The community work with a team of professionals, such as a set designer, director and stage manager, who ensure that the work is of the highest standard.
Anyone who has been involved with work of this kind will testify that it’s “life changing.”
After 35 years there are generations of women – such as the Ansell family whose grandmother, mother and granddaughters - have acted in the plays together.
Dorchester's Community Plays
Uniquely, over the past thirty years we have staged 6 community plays, and in 2020 we will be staging Spinning the Moon by Stephanie Dale. This is Stephanie’s second time under commission with us – she co-wrote A Time to Keep with David Edgar in 2007.
Spinning the Moon is set in Dorchester in 1485. Echoing our current political and social climate, the play is based on conflated, real events which took place, in Dorchester, across a 50-year period. It explores the collapse of the manor houses and the rise in popularity to sheep farming, which in turn saw many people turned off the land and made homeless. It was a period of political and financial insecurity, which saw many people turning to desperate measures in a bid to survive. Witchcraft was also on the increase, as was punishment for being involved in such activities, as more and more people needed someone to blame for the breakdown of their society.