Posts Tagged ‘Bryony Purdue’

I was as attracted to the venue, which I’ve visited twice on ‘tours’, as much as the show. As it turned out, it was a match made in heaven – a lovely folk ballad opera in the delightful sound stage theatre they built many moons ago for the filming of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It’s the true story of the Black Country chain-makers, most in Cradley Heath, most home workers, at the beginning of the 20th century. They worked through intermediaries called foggers, who exploited them like pimps. Without them, they had no materials and no access to the manufacturers they supplied. George Cadbury’s newspaper The Daily News campaigned against such ‘sweated labour’, bringing it to public knowledge and spurring the formation of a pressure group which included campaigner Mary Macarthur. Her work resulted in a minimum hourly rate, which was eventually implemented, though somewhat reluctantly, particularly by the foggers who did much to get round it and undermine it.

The story is told by chain-maker Bird, flogger Albert and Mary Macarthur, played respectively by Rowan Godel, Neil Gore (also the writer) and Bryony Purdue, who sing and play lovely songs composed by folk royalty John Kirkpatrick, supplemented by a handful of traditional tunes. The chain-maker’s house is the centre of a simple but evocative design by Elizabeth Wright, which is supplemented by projections. There are even opportunities to sing along and wave red flags! It’s excellent storytelling, charmingly performed. I loved it.

This is the first time I’ve seen the work of Townsend Theatre Productions, who specialise in touring works of social history, but it hopefully won’t be the last. Sands Films Studios (www.sandsfilms.co.uk) is a unique, very welcoming venue and it was a joy to visit again. The run there has now ended but it’s still on tour (www.townsendproductions.org.uk) and it’s definitely worth catching if it comes your way.

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