More than 1,500 people attended a unique play about the history of Bedford at the Quarry Theatre St Luke’s last week.
Commissioned by The Harpur Trust as part of its 450th anniversary, Somewhere in England (the Bedford play) was a sell out with six ticketed performances and two additional free shows.
The play centred around three fictional characters working for the BBC, which was stationed in Bedford during the Second World War.
The characters embark on a project researching the origins of the town in which they will be stationed for the next three years, a town which can only be referred to as ‘Somewhere in England’ to protect its people from Hitler’s Luftwaffe.
In a plot expertly woven together by playwright Mark Burgess, a further cast of seven actors took the audience back and forth in time unveiling a series of flashbacks through 1000 years of history.
The play focussed on key Bedfordians such as Bunyan, Harpur, Howard, Wells and Higgins, as well as giving cameoed insights into the workhouse, hospital and asylum.
The play also captured lesser known Bedfordians including Sarah Dazley, the last woman to be publically hanged outside the prison in St Loyes Street for poisoning her two husbands and her young son, and two Antarctic explorers, Cherry-Garrard and Mackintosh who were part of Scott and Shackleton expeditions respectively.
With Airlander very much a feature of local news this summer, no play about Bedford’s history would be complete without the R101 which made its ill-fated maiden voyage from Cardington Sheds in 1930.
Sarah Elam, the play’s producer and project manager of the trust’s 450th anniversary celebrations, said: “We have had some wonderful feedback from people who saw the play but a highlight for me was meeting some of our Almshouse residents after a matinee and hearing their own very personal memories.
“One lady told me how she had been to watch the launch of the R101 as a child whilst another had been at court meeting the baby she was about to adopt when Hanratti arrived for his trial.”
Director Mark Burgess, said: “I am delighted that the production was a success both artistically & in terms of it being a sell-out and I’ve been overwhelmed by the hugely positive response from many who are born & bred in the town.
“I certainly feel that we have done justice to the story of Bedford.”
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.
The final event ‘Orchestra Unwrapped’ (a concert for children by the Philharmonia) will take place in December.