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16 to 18 June Performances of Hollyhayes by Tale Valley Community Theatre

PUBLISHED: 13:48 01 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:29 20 February 2013

16 to 18 June Performances of Hollyhayes by Tale Valley Community Theatre

16 to 18 June Performances of Hollyhayes by Tale Valley Community Theatre

Work has begun to convert a huge barn into the set of Hollyhayes, an original play about the pressures of life on a family farm in East Devon.

The play has been written by TVCT members Trevor Vanstone, Geoff Nicholson and John Somers.

There is ample parking on site and the bar is open from 7.00pm and after performances. The production includes a choir of 26 people under the direction of Alan Boxer, projected video and still images and the real words of interviewees, spoken by actors.

Several days before the performance they have booked for, audience members will receive a booklet which gives contextual information on the current state of farming and the Hollyhayes story itself. To buy tickets, please contact Paula Nelson at 01404 841232 or

John can be contacted on 01884 277390, 07934 611368 or at

To read more about the TVCT and community theatre go to

With over 100 local people involved,a stage and set is being built in the barn, followed by 200 seats, lighting, sound and image projection equipment an exhibition space and a bar.

After three years of research, writing and rehearsal, the pioneering work will be staged by the Tale Valley Community Theatre at Victoria Dairy, Payhembury of June 16th, 17th and 18th. Over 40 people connected with farming were interviewed for the project and verbatim extracts of their words will be used within the play.

Four years ago TVCT staged Foresight, which told the true story of German Junkers 88 bomber shot down in the Tale Valley in May 1941. Again, several years of research led to the project which was staged in a marquee close to the spot where one of the airmen bailed out of the burning plane. In all over 200 local people were involved in staging the play and Hollyhayes will be on a similar scale.

The latest production spans more than a decade at the fictitious but authentically drawn Hollyhayes Farm and tells the story of inter-generational pressures affecting the Craddock family as they battle with the vagaries of economics, politics, market forces and, of course, the weather.

When the Craddocks economist daughter Rose is forced to return to the family home when her father falls ill, she continues her research into the economic pressures affecting family farms and finds out first-hand what effect these can have.

For TVCT Artistic Director John Somers the story is all very close to home. Alongside a long career with Exeter Universitys Drama Department, he has lived in the heart of the Tale Valley since the early 1970s and seen the farming scene change dramatically.

John said: Hollyhayes, three years in the making, focuses on a common issue experienced in rural communities who, if anyone, will take on the farm when the parents retire?

I love the challenge of starting from nothing and developing over several years a sophisticated, highly original theatrical event which relies almost entirely on the creativity of those who live around me.

The purpose of TVCT is to research and tell the stories of the community, by members of the community, staged in the community. This is even more important as change in the countryside quickens and these stories can be lost forever.

This is what we have attempted to do by interviewing a range of people connected with agriculture in the locality, including those who turned away from it as a way of life. The interviews were recorded and we will be using these recordings for the archive aspect of the project and drawing on the use of peoples own words within the play.

John, an honorary fellow of Exeter University and an internationally recognised expert on community and interactive theatre, has recently returned from lecturing on the subject and making theatre in Poland, Palestine and the Czech Republic.

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