Theatre group wins grant to produce open-air play

First published in News Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Richmond)

A THEATRE company has been given the go-ahead to stage a largescale community play in the Yorkshire Dales after receiving a lottery grant of £25,000.

North Country Theatre, based in Richmond, has been planning the community play for six months but the project was in doubt before the company was granted the money.

The Arts Council England National Lottery Fund grant will enable the company to stage Ibsen’s folklore play Peer Gynt – re-named Blame it on Bartle – in summer 2013 at various open-air venues.

Artistic director Nobby Dimon said: “We are delighted to receive this award.

“It is half the amount we need to raise to stage the production, with the rest coming from donations from Richmond Town Council, Richmondshire District Council, friends of North Country Theatre and Angels – supporters of the company who agreed to give £100 a year for three years after we lost Arts Council funding.

“We have also had some sizable anonymous donations and funding from lots of other parish and town councils and organisations in the Dales.”

More than 80 people have been involved in the workshops held at venues across the Dales thanks to support from the Rural Development Programme England and European Leader Fund, and Mr Dimon said they are all keen to be involved in the production in some way – as performers, musicians and stage crew.

He said: “One of the great things about this community play is that we can create epic, exciting and spectacular theatre because we will be working with large numbers of volunteer performers.

“This will certainly make a change from our usual professional cast of four actors, though it brings its own challenges, of course.

“It is also a great opportunity for amateur participants to develop their skills under a professional director and by working alongside professional actors and musicians.”

The lottery grant will be ringfenced so it can only be spent on the production – and the theatre still relies on donations.

The company has also been in discussion with the town twinning association of Vinstra in Norway which annually stages a spectacular outdoor version of Peer Gynt.

It is hoped that Blame it on Bartle will incorporate performers from Richmond’s twin town.

Mr Dimon added: “The play is based on Peer Gynt. It is an old story about finding a scapegoat to blame for things going wrong which could turn out to be relevant to audiences today.”

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