Stage is set for new theatre to put on play set in wartime
STRUGGLING factory workers in a war-torn Kingswood is the theme for a new play set to be performed in the area's first professional theatre.
Engineers' Blue will be the first play to be shown at The Brass Works Theatre, aptly set above Kingswood Heritage Museum.
The play has been written by Kingswood-born playwright and actor Adrian Harris who is artistic director of the theatre.
Mr Harris began his working life as a mechanic but later trained in London as a professional actor and has had stints on Coronation Street, Bad Girls and Waking the Dead.
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Several years later he returned to South Gloucestershire and has established a successful career as an actor and playwright.
He said: "A year ago I was looking for an outside venue for a summer show. I'd been to Kingswood Heritage Museum, to do some research on a play about Kingswood miners in the 1840s, and I thought the garden and the lake would be the perfect spot. I spoke to someone at the venue but he asked what we would do if the weather was bad and had I thought about an indoor venue.
"Then he showed me an upstairs room which was a blank canvas and he said they were looking for someone to use the space. I know they had looked at letting it out to be used as a gym or as offices but they wanted something that would create a reciprocal audience for the museum."
After a long process to create something out of a blank canvas, the Brass Works Theatre, which is on the site of the former brass factory, will be opening its doors next week.
The project, the only professional theatre and arts space in South Gloucestershire, is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and South Gloucestershire Council.
Mr Harris said: "I needed to get a licence for entertainment and that was one of the biggest challenges. We also had no seating or stage electrics so it's taken a year to bring that all together. I got a small grant and managed to get the licence. By this time I'd got the bit between my teeth and could see the project's potential.
"I then began looking at seating and stage electrics and how I could work closely with the museum.
"I'm also in a group called South West Script Writers and so I asked everyone involved to come along to the museum and write a five minute monologue based on an exhibition. I got some actors involved and we performed it in the museum. It really brought the exhibitions to life. I think it changed people's ideas about what we were trying to do."
For his opening work Mr Harris pitched an idea for a play set in the former Douglas Engineering Company, in Kingswood.
The show starts in 1941 when the Government has just introduced female conscription to enable the country to meet the relentless demand for machinery to support the war effort.
While Britain's engineering output is breaking records women drafted in to work in the former motorcycle factory are made to feel far from welcome. Ivy Drake, a young volunteer, realises she has a fight of her own against Cliff, a wounded Dunkirk veteran, and Pete, a young entrepreneur hoping to make a fast buck on the black market economy.
The title of the play comes from a paste used to reveal imperfections in machined surfaces on component metal parts; now it also becomes the metaphor to disclose the truth.
Mr Harris said: "I interviewed Bill Douglas who was the great grandson of William Douglas, who owned the factory. There is a real flavour of what life was like there and although there is some heritage in the play it is about people and drama. It's not supposed to be a history lesson.
"We've got some great professional actors in this, including Hannah Pritchard, from Stroud, and Simon Alexander, from London."
"Engineers' Blue was written in Kingswood, about Kingswood. This is an opportunity for the people of South Gloucestershire to enjoy professional theatre on their doorstep. It's a very accessible play and hopefully this can be the start of an arts community hub."
Engineers' Blue will be performed at the theatre, in Tower Lane, Warmley, from Tuesday, July 10, to Saturday, July 28, at 8pm with a matinee show on Saturdays. Tickets cost £10. Call 0117 967 7817 or visit www.brass workstheatre.com.