Bedford’s history brought to life in a play

A special play retelling the story of Bedford will be performed in early September at the town’s newest theatrical venue, The Quarry Theatre, St Luke’s. The play opens on Thursday 8th September with a gala performance (press night) on Friday 9th September.

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The play ‘Somewhere in England’ (The Bedford Play), was commissioned by The Harpur Trust as part of its 450th anniversary celebrations and uncovers the lives of key Bedfordians, famous people connected to the town (even Nelson Mandela features in the play) and the stories behind some of the town’s landmarks, including the Cardington Hangars, The Bedford Swan Hotel and of course Bedford’s iconic bridges.

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Mark Burgess, writer and Director of the play explains “The title reflects the fact that the BBC’s Music & Religious Departments were based in Bedford during WW2, broadcasting from Bedford venues (including the Corn Exchange and Bedford School’s Great Hall). The town’s true identity had to remain a secret to avoid being bombed by Hitler’s Luftwaffe and so the broadcasts were always announced as being live from somewhere in England.”

Whilst primarily set in the early forties when it wasn’t uncommon to see stars such as David Niven, Vera Lyn and Glenn Miller wandering through the streets of Bedford, the play moves back and forth in time exploring a host of stories. With costumes hired in from the National Theatre, professional actors and a live orchestra, the play promises to be a real treat for Bedfordians and anyone connected with the town.

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Mark Burgess was born in Kingston upon Thames & graduated from the Guildford School of Acting in 1978. He then worked extensively in theatre, television, radio & film. In recent years Mark has been a prolific writer of plays for both the stage & BBC Radio 4. Between 2004 & 2015 he was also Head of Speech & Drama at Bedford Modern School so he was very excited to have the opportunity to write the play for the Trust.

‘My aim in writing the play was to encapsulate the history & spirit of the town within the space of a two hour stage production. I wanted many of the familiar people, places & events to be represented as well as some of the less familiar ones. Although the play would, naturally, be of greatest interest to Bedfordians I was very keen for it to also work for people from outside the locality. But above everything, I wanted the play to work as a piece of dramatic entertainment.’

The play features 9 professional actors who are each experienced in a range of media from television and radio to stage performances and pantomime, whilst the two child roles will be performed by local pupils Josh Dogra and Charlotte Barnett, who both attend Bedford Modern School.

The Harpur Trust has put on a range of community events for the town already this year including a Run and Fun Day in May at Priory Country Park and a children’s art competition and exhibition at The Higgins Bedford. And to ensure that the play is as accessible as possible, they will be offering a number of free tickets for schools and for local community and voluntary groups, as well as for the residents in its Almshouses.

Tickets for the play can be purchased through the Quarry Theatre via its website on

www.quarrytheatre.org.uk
/ or by phone on 01234 362337 / 01234 362335.

More information is available at www.harpurtrust.org.uk/450.

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