An evening of Test Match memories
That work includes productions like Blithe Spirit, a play about a novelist who invites a clairvoyant to his home to communicate with the dead – and who summons to the house the spirit of the novelist’s dead wife. The Noel Coward play might be considered a safe choice of work to stage.
“He wrote it in a very dark time for the country. It was 1941 and while we might think of it in a certain way now, it was a play that allowed the country to talk about death and grief. It was a really important play.”
The importance of the play is reflected in an impressive cast which Cruden has gathered, including Nichola McAuliffe as Madam Arcarti and Andrew Hall as Charles Condomine.
It appears Cruden will keep giving the audience what it wants – and reaping the rewards. THE term “thankful villages” has, since the mid-1930s, been applied to those villages which lost no men during the First World War. Given the scale of the losses during the conflict, there are not many places that were blessed in this way – last year researchers identified just 53 civil parishes in England and Wales to which all the men who left to fight returned safely.
In this centenary year of the beginning of the Great War, Badapple Theatre Company, based near Harrogate, are exploring the phenomenon in their latest play The Thankful Village which they are touring around small rural venues across Yorkshire over the next two months. Badapple was formed in 1998 and specialises in creating new work specifically designed to be taken to village halls and community spaces, bringing theatre to places that would not otherwise easily have access to it.
“We came across the story of the thankful villages because there is one close to one of the venues we perform at,” says company founder and director Kate Bramley. “I found it interesting that there were any villages that were able to celebrate their men coming back.”
Bramley, who also wrote the play, then started to look at the story from the point of view of the women who were left behind when the men went off to war. “We focus on three women in one village who have sent off their respective husbands and boyfriends to fight,” she says. “One of the women eventually decides to go to volunteer in France.” Set in the fictional rural community of Bottledale, The Thankful Village is a story of hope, humour and humanity which follows the fortunes of the men on the Front and the dayto-day life – with its inevitable twists and turns – of the women back at home, right up to their reunion in the winter of 1918. “One of the women, Victoria, is in her 30s – she has much more of an instinct of the Victorian era and carries all her emotion within,” explains Bramley. “And the other two are servants in her household – one in her teens, Edie, and the other, Nelly, in her twenties. Nelly is following the progress of the modern woman – the suffragettes – and she is imagining a life for herself beyond the confines of the village.”
Music is always a key element of Badapple shows and when the project was first decided upon 18 months ago Bramley got together with the company’s musical director Jez Lowe to discuss how to incorporate music into the show. “The women also play their respective menfolk,” she says. “And the men, when they appear, are always singing.” The company begin their tour next week – and it’s a punishing schedule, setting up in a hall, performing then moving on, with hardly a day off for eight weeks. They take lighting, sound and a full set – just as if they were going to a studio theatre venue. “What we aim to do is to bring a complete theatre experience into a hall,” says Bramley. “Basically it’s as much as we can fit into a transit van, but we try not to scrimp.” This is very much appreciated by their loyal audiences. “We are very fortunate – we have a network of places we work with in Yorkshire and we get brought in by rural touring schemes around the country.
“We find that we get a great reception from people in village halls in the middle of nowhere. There is a real warmth of response to what we are doing.”
All Saints Church Hall, Poppleton, April 22, then touring to June 22. www. badappletheatre.com HENRY Blofeld and Peter Baxter will take to the stage to share their memories of life in cricket’s commentary box. Memories of Test Match Special has been updated since last year and the pair promise to get under the skin of the last Ashes and attempt to discover where it all went wrong for England’s current squad.
Blofeld and Baxter will be appearing at St George’s Hall, Bradford on May 15. For tickets call the box office on 01274 432000 or online at www. bradford-theatres.co.uk