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You are in: Dorset > Entertainment > Theatre > Dorchester's Community Play

The Dorchester Community Play

The Dorchester Community Play

Dorchester's Community Play

Over a hundred local performers took to the stage in 'A Time to Keep', Dorchester's community play. Hundreds headed along to see how Dorchester faced up to the threat of Napoleonic invasion...

Dorchester’s amateur dramatics enthusiasts took to the stage this winter in the town’s fifth community play, ‘A Time to Keep’.

The play was set in the summer of 1804, when England was threatened with invasion by Napoleon, and when Dorchester was likely to be in the front line.

The citizens of Dorchester decide to present a patriotic pageant about the town’s past to buoy up the morale of the many troops garrisoned in around the town. 

The play within the play is about Mary Channing, a feisty local resident who in 1704 poisoned her husband and paid the ultimate penalty for her crime.

The Dorchester Community Play

The Dorchester Community Play

With a cast of 130 in addition to dozens of helpers behind the scenes, ‘A Time to Keep’ represented a real community effort.

The Dorchester Community Play Association began almost 30 years ago, when the Royal Court playwright and director Ann Jellicoe offered to write a play for Lyme Regis.

The success of the project led on to more community plays across the South West and in 1980 Playwright David Edgar devised a play for Dorchester.

Using professional playwrights and directors from London was controversial at the time but despite criticism, the Dorchester Community Play was a huge success.

It was enthusiastically taken up by the town despite its metropolitan roots, with hundreds of residents queuing up to take part as actors, musicians or backstage support.

It’s that success that’s sustained it ever since. Each play takes years to write and rehearse and this year’s is no exception.

‘A Time to Keep’ was co-written by David Edgar and Stephanie Dale and was directed by Jon Oram, who has already produced community plays about Hull trawlermen and Kent miners.

This time he turned his hand to Dorset cavalry, smugglers and spies. It was performed at the Thomas Hardye School from Friday 16 November to Saturday 1 December.

last updated: 12/12/2007 at 16:08
created: 16/11/2007

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