A Rattenbury plays Beer smuggler’s father in Winefred

Harcombe woman excited over directing community play about smuggling and Undercliff

ONE thing that delights Harcombe-based Penny Elsom about directing East Devon’s latest community play Winefred is the fact she has managed to cast a descendant of Beer smuggler Jack Rattenbury as Jack’s father.

Penny, who has set up The Heritage Players to perform the play, adapted by Seaton resident John Seward from the novel by the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, said: “Brian Rattenbury – from Lyme Regis – is a direct descendent of Captain John (Job in the play) and does a lot with Lyme Regis Operatic Society. He is really pleased to be able to play this part of his ancestor.”

Penny, who has written two community plays in the past – An Outing for the Saints performed at Sidford in 2001 and Rebellion in Sidbury four years ago – has cast Colyton Grammar School student Alex Hall as smuggler Jack and Lara Howard from Beer as Winefred.

Having gained an MA in theatre studies 12 years ago and worked with three local theatre groups, including Sidmouth’s SADS, Penny jumped at the chance to direct when asked three years ago by Seaton Visitor Centre Trust.

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The play is set in and around the hamlet of Seaton in 1839, the year of the catastrophic landslip between Lyme Regis and Seaton, which formed the Undercliff, and is set around the smuggling endemic to the Seaton, Beer and Branscombe coastline at the time.

Baring-Gould was an avid collector of 19th century folk music, preserving it for future generations.

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Under the supervision of Paul Wilson from Wren Music, Okehampton, and Seaton-based dance teacher Sara Perry of Confi-dance, Winefred will offer authentic folk music and dancing during the play as the drama unfolds.

Yesterday, Thursday, Penny and her husband Graham were invited to Plymouth for a reception to mark the release of Baring-Gould’s folk music on digital archives by Wren Music, making it possible for people to search his entire collection for the first time since he wrote it down.

Auditions for the 30 speaking parts took place earlier this month, attracting some 90 for the parts, music and dancing and Penny is delighted to have cast people from across the area, from Sidbury and Sidmouth to Lyme Regis and Axminster, with many from the Seaton and Axmouth area.

“I am thrilled, because that is a lot of speaking parts to find and I am very happy with everyone I have cast,” said Penny.

“It was a difficult job because I didn’t want to disappoint anybody and everyone entered into the spirit of it.”

Rehearsals begin on March 21 and will be held twice a week, increasing in July before performances are held in Seaton Town Hall from Tuesday, July 26 to Saturday, July 30.

A grant of �8,704 from Making it Local, a locally-managed grants scheme in the Blackdown Hills and East Devon AONB areas, complements support given by Seaton Visitor Centre Trust.

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