Saturday 25 February 2017

'Last' Hardy Player back on stage

Norrie Woodhall will perform Thomas Hardy's work in Dorchester
Norrie Woodhall will perform Thomas Hardy's work in Dorchester

A 104-year-old actress, the last person alive who knew Thomas Hardy, is to perform his work in Dorchester in a bid to save an important collection for future generations in the UK.

Norrie Woodhall was cast by Hardy himself as Tess's sister Liza Lu in the stage version of his novel Tess Of The D'Urbervilles.

Hardy promptly added some lines to her part when he thought she did not have enough to say.

She is treading the boards again on Friday night to raise money for the Hardy Players Manuscript Fund.

The collection up for sale includes Hardy scripts, dating from 1908 to 1924 some with hand written production notes, programmes, posters and stage set models collected by Thomas Tilley, stage manager of the original Hardy Players.

There are also transcripts of 12 Hardy novels and short stories including The Famous Tragedy Of The Queen Of Cornwall (1923) which Hardy wrote to be performed by the Hardy Players, and Hardy's own 1924 adaptation of Tess Of The d'Urbervilles.

Norrie, the last surviving original Hardy Player, will perform alongside other local actors in Hardy's Night - Chapter And Verse: Words And Humour From Hardy's Pen at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester this evening.

Dr Angelique Richardson, senior lecturer in English at the University of Exeter, explained the importance of the collection to the region and for understanding the cultural life of the early twentieth century.

"Through research at the University's Centre for South West Writing and Centre for Victorian Studies we recognise that the material will shed light on Hardy's relationship with the Dorchester community," she said.

"It will also tell us more about the response to his work in the period after he had ceased writing fiction and in particular on the value ascribed to his efforts, in his own words, to 'preserve... a fairly true record of a vanishing life'."

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