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Hall For Cornwall Youth Theatre present Hells Mouth by Nick Darke

Hall For Cornwall Youth Theatre present Hells Mouth by Nick Darke

Part of Nick Darke 70

A celebration of the life, work and legacy of Nick Darke throughout 2018 & 2019

Nick Darke (1948-2005)

Young people and professional artists are presenting the work of Nick Darke throughout 2018 & 2019 in a celebration of the work of this unique playwright and film maker in his 70th Birthday year.

Jane Darke told us ‘Nick would have been 70 in August of this year, he died in 2005. It’s wonderful to be able to share this birthday with so many talented people, some who knew him personally but many who have come to know him through performance of his work. It’s really good to be able to make this a year of celebration for him and his friends, old and new. So thank you in advance to everyone sharing Nick’s 70th year!’

Hall For Cornwall Senior Youth Theatre will be presenting Darke’s Hells Mouth on the main stage during the venue’s last week before it closes for redevelopment. Over the last 20 years 100,000 young people have been given performance opportunities at Hall For Cornwall.

As part of Nick Darke 70 Hells Mouth is the second of two Youth productions of Darke’s work this year after Cornwall Youth Theatre toured The Riot across the county.

When a deadly game of chicken on the Tamar Bridge ends in tragedy, civil unrest threatens to break out in war torn Cornwall. In a cynical to bid to placate the press and suppress the ‘revolting’ locals, a clay worker and part-time rock star from St Stephen, is elevated to the lofty position of Duke. The only person standing in the way of Kernow’s subjugation is feisty local girl, Gonietta.

Post apocalyptic, passionate and poignant, Hells Mouth is Nick Darke’s hilarious retelling of Sophocles Ancient Greek tragedy, Antigone. The play will be directed by Simon Harvey and Sam Colborne, with musical direction from Richard Healey and choreography by Helen Tiplady.

The cast have been enjoying the exploration of Darke’s writing, Chloe Endean who plays the part of Gonietta in the play said: ‘Hells Mouth is such a beautiful text and I feel very grateful to be bringing Nick Darke’s art to life as part of the HFC team. Working under the direction and guidance of the creative team is a joy, their inventive visions inspire everyone and we are all incredibly proud of the material we’re creating.’

Hells Mouth was originally written by Nick Darke and performed by a company of young people brought together from all over Cornwall under a Royal Shakespeare Company Education project exploring the story of Antigone. Darke was present throughout the improvisation process, over several residential weekends and rehearsal days, asking students key questions about loyalty, courage, patriotism, survival, stubbornness, pride, status and who or what they would die for. Drafts of the play were read and re-worked until the final play was produced in October 1992. Under the direction of Mike Shepherd the actors portrayal of the characters were playful, poignant, inventive and relevant.

The culmination of the project was at Stratford upon Avon at The Other Place, where the 6 regional projects joined together and shared the performance work. Not all the projects had worked as successfully as Cornwall, but nevertheless, it was incredible to see an Antigone based in medieval Scotland, an inner city court room in London, a tenement block in Solihull to contrast with alongside our play set in Kernow’s land of silent rock.

Nick working with the original Hells Mouth cast at the RSC

Hells Mouth helped to begin the careers of Carl Grose, now a successful playwright and Jenny Beare, a well known Cornish actress amongst many others.

As one of the earliest reviews of Darke’s work, in The Financial Times stated: “Darke gives shape to a Cornish idenitity that feels vital and real and has nothing to do with clay pipes and clotted cream”.

Come and support HFC Youth Theatre’s production of Hells Mouth on May 31st. It is full of potential stars of the future who sparkle in this unique, contemporary and passionate version of the play.

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1926: Spiralling Costs and a Controversial Reopening

1926: Spiralling Costs and a Controversial Reopening

Written by James Westfield, University of Exeter
Work on the remodelling of the Hall commenced in June 1925 after the tender was given to ‘Messrs. Colenso, Ltd., of Cambourne, of £8,737’, considerably above the £5,000 initially estimated in 1922. Subsequent to this, Truro City Council applied for a loan of an additional £4,000, thus allowing £10,000 for the project overall. The City Hall (as it was then renamed to) reopened with a ball in October 1926, although it was widely criticised at the time for ending at midnight, as the council would not permit longer opening hours for the new Hall.
The actual end cost announced to the council meeting on 14th April 1926 was £12,000, which caused an outcry from the public (represented in this poem from the West Briton newspaper in May 1923 just from the initial costing of £5,000 for the hall, let alone the £12,000 final cost!) and there were also complaints that renting costs for the hall were too high at £33 10s per week and also that no arrangements had yet been made for films or performances. Eventually, in June 1926, the council agreed to temporarily let the hall for use as a cinema in order to pay back ‘at least the interest’ on the loan, only to then cancel these plans in August 1926 as the councillors couldn’t come to an agreement over the letting costs!
The first ball, to celebrate the reopening of City Hall was held in October 1926, although not without controversy. The Police Super-Intendent Osbourne called it ‘an absolute disgrace’ that it ended at midnight and that the council would not extend the licence of the Hall until 2 am. There were also complaints in early 1927 that it seemed impossible to book the hall, although the council down-played this by announcing that the Woman’s Institute had successfully booked it and that they did not understand what the public were complaining about.
And so, the City Hall and it’s first theatre were created, and this paved the way for the modern theatre we know today as the Hall for Cornwall. It also helped Truro enter a new, post-industrial era and prepared it for the societal changes that would occur in the latter-half of the twentieth-century. Furthermore, it cemented the Hall’s place as a significant monument for the Truronian population, that would lead to them campaigning to save it from destructions in the 1990s.
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Truro Peace Day Celebrations, 1919

Truro Peace Day Celebrations, 1919

By Daisy Roberts

Peace Day celebrations took place in Truro on the 18th and 19th of July, 1919, marking the formal end to the First World War. Although the conflict on the Western Front had ceased when the armistice was reached on 11th of November, 1918, a formal peace was not agreed until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28th of June, 1919. This official end to the war was celebrated throughout the United Kingdom. As the image shows, King George V declared that a religious thanksgiving be held throughout the British Isles and Empire on 6th of July. In Truro, a service was held in the cathedral. This was followed up by the Peace Day celebrations on the 18th and 19th. London led the celebrations. A large victory parade made its way through the city and the first cenotaph was unveiled in Whitehall. (This temporary structure was so well received that the following year it was replaced with a permanent structure).

In Truro, celebrations spanning the 18th and 19th of July, were attended by the general public, local school children and former soldiers who had served in the war. These celebrations intended to remember the lost, commemorate their sacrifices and celebrate peace. Festivities included speeches, music, food, fancy dress, sports competition, a bonfire and carnival. Events on the 18th were primarily directed at local school children. The postcard shows their attendance at a religious service, delivered from a platform erected outside what is now the Hall for Cornwall building on Boscawen Street. This was followed by sports competition in Boscawen Park in the afternoon.

On the evening of the 18th, at least 500 ex-servicemen were entertained with dinner and a smoking (men-only) concert. Both were held in what is now the Hall for Cornwall building. The Saturday celebrations, on the 19th, began with bell-ringing from both Kenwyn Church and Truro Cathedral. Stood outside of the City Hall on Boscawen Street, the Mayor then read the proclamation of peace. After which, the festivities got into full swing, the parade and adult’s sports competitions began, followed by music in the evening.

These celebrations were enjoyed by all members of the Truro community. Truro City Hall building provided the perfect centre for these festivities, both public and private. A tradition Hall for Cornwall aims to continue on the same site today and in the future.

Images courtesy of the Cornwall Records Office, with thanks to Courtney Library of the Royal Institution of Cornwall for access to local newspaper archives.

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‘A Cobra and Basket’: Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society and City Hall

‘A Cobra and Basket’: Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society and City Hall

By Kate Neale

In 1961, the Secretary of the Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society received a letter from London confirming an order of a cobra and basket to be delivered to City Hall. A curious order! But apparently, not an unusual one in the day-to-day running of an ambitious local theatre group.

First formed in 1912, the Society performed in different venues in Truro before settling at City Hall for many of their shows. Originally performing Gilbert and Sullivan operas such as The Pirates of Penzance and Ruddigore, after 1929 the group mainly opted to perform more modern musicals such as Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady and South Pacific.

In 1961 the Society performed Kismet as its fiftieth anniversary show. Kismet originally premiered in 1953 in Los Angeles, before being performed in San Francisco and then at the Stoll Theatre in London’s West End. The story is set in an imagined historic Baghdad, and follows the adventures of a wily poet, and the love affairs of his daughter. The Society’s production at City Hall included a cast of over 40 main performers, additional dancers, and a 24 piece orchestra.

Archive material held at the Cornwall Record Office shows what an undertaking putting on a show such as Kismet could be. The Society arranged for band parts from theatre company Samuel French, scenery and props to be delivered to Truro train station, and of course the cobra and basket from a stage production company in London!

The fiftieth jubilee was an opportunity to showcase the Society, and the Mayor and Mayoress of Truro were invited to attend the performance.  It was also an apt moment for the Society to reflect on its own history; a large souvenir programme, printed by Truro firm Netherton and Worth, included snippets and stories of performances from past years. Former and life members of the society were warmly welcomed back to celebrate the Society’s ongoing work.

City Hall and Hall for Cornwall has been an important venue for Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society over the course of its history. We hope that in its new form, our theatre will continue to be a hub for local creativity for years to come!