Company of Players return to Hertford stage with pub inspired tale Eventide

Hannah Leonard as Liz in Eventide with Des Turner as John 

Hannah Leonard as Liz in Eventide with Des Turner as John - Credit: The Company of Players

The Company of Players return to the stage next week with their latest play, three-hander Eventide.

This follows the hastily arranged production of Hindle Wakes by Stanley Houghton at the company's Little Theatre in Hertford.

All but one of the six socially distanced performances of Hindle Wakes was sold out.

Hazel Halliday as Mrs Hawthorn and Andy Howell as Christopher Hawthorn in the Company of Players' production of Hindle Wakes.

Hazel Halliday as Mrs Hawthorn and Andy Howell as Christopher Hawthorn in the Company of Players' recent production of Hindle Wakes. - Credit: Steve Beeston

Jan Palmer Sayer’s experimental production – put together in just six rehearsals over less than a fortnight – was pronounced a hit and, with the right choice of play, might very well be repeated in the future.

After seeing the play, many audience members expressed their surprise at just how well this piece, penned 110 years ago, still entertained a modern audience.  

As the applause died away, the CoPs team moved into the theatre to remove the thrust floor that had allowed Hindle Wakes to be performed in the round and to reinstate the raised stage, ready for the next production – Eventide by Barney Norris – a somewhat more recent text, but by another young writer.

Des Turner as John in Eventide

Des Turner as John in Eventide - Credit: The Company of Players

Norris read English at Keble College, Oxford, before going on to study creative writing at University of London’s Royal Holloway.

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After finishing his studies, he formed Up In Arms, a touring theatre company, with chum Alice Hamilton, who he met at their local youth theatre group in Salisbury.

From the outset, Up in Arms’ stated mission has been to highlight the issues facing those living in rural England.

In 2014, the company debuted Norris’ first full-length work, Visitors, at the Arcola Theatre in London’s Dalston.

Visitors won Norris both the Critics’ Circle and Off West End Most Promising Playwright Awards, and the Arcola’s artistic director, Mehmet Ergen, was so impressed with the production that he commissioned Eventide on the press night.

Konrad Strauss as Mark in Eventide

Konrad Strauss as Mark in Eventide - Credit: The Company of Players

Set in a pub garden, Eventide was inspired by Norris’ time working at The Cricketers Arms pub in Tangley, a village in rural Hampshire.

The play features landlord John, church organist Liz, and local lad Mark, all of whom are struggling to find their way now that the old order and certainties of life are disintegrating.

Don’t expect any dramatic denouements or sensational revelations – Norris is a writer/chronicler and his world is more gentle and low-key.

But his extraordinary writing allows the audience to get into, not only the hearts and souls of his characters, but also the waning communities that they inhabit.

Directed by Mel Powell, Eventide runs from Friday, February 4 to Saturday, February 12.  

Tickets are available from www.ticketsource.co.uk/cops. Also see the Company of Players' website www.cops.org.uk for more details and cast list.