Lady Smock, The Life of Mary Webb.

Owen Lewis Productions Present

Lady Smock

September 2018

 

As a playwright I have always worked alone and I have never collaborated. I have obviously worked with others in the county but not in the writing. That has always for me been a solitary occupation.  At University one is expected to collaborate all the time and the support that one receives in those settings is second to none. However in the real world until now, I have ploughed my own lonely furrow. Not a complaint just the usual status quo. But an artist who stands still for too long can be left behind his style may grow dusty and he might start repeating himself. Time then to breath some fresh air in and see who might be up for a project.

I will first tell you about the process that has lead to, “Lady Smock.” It is a play charting the life and love of Shropshire Authoress, Mary Webb. It really is quite a story. As she was sitting on the Devil’s Chair, Caer Caradoc or The Long Mynd awaiting her next run of inspiration, her books were being translated and read world-wide. Books that eventually lead to the Hollywood blockbusters. “Gone to Earth,” and “Precious Bane,” being two of hers that made it to the silver screen. It is a fascinating story and one that we had no idea about when we first met to discuss what it was we wanted to perform.

Having highlighted that I was a novice at collaborating you can imagine I was very intrigued when I was approached by a Shropshire Singer/Musician/Poet Rowan Bartram who said she would like to do something with me. I had done a gig late last year with a violinist and all round musician, Phoebe Rees I loved her work and her enthusiasm. A team was born.

We met initially back in February. I had an idea I wanted to write about feminism and the story of the arrival of modern woman. Rowan had a far better idea and had written a poem about Lyth Hill. We started talking about that and Mary Webb came up in conversation. As we chatted the passion in the group was ignited and we hit on the idea of Lady Smock. Rowan had a series of songs and poetry she wanted including. I too had poetry and a few ideas for songs I wanted to write and Phoebe was excited about new Shropshire tunes and old Shropshire tunes and the whole idea of juxta posing the music and playing with traditions.

I went away from that meeting and promised a script within a month. Using Gladys Mary Cole’s book on Mary Webb as a starting point we trawled and researched until a narrative presented itself. I wrote that narrative and kept to my promised deadline. In that time, Rowan was writing music for her songs and for a song I composed and phoebe started working on her music. Within the month we had the show and now the next part, casting.

It’s always hard casting, we are a professional company but use local actors , the company’s intention is to give the actors a true professional experience and give them a taste of what life might be like as a full time engaged actor. There are many actors out there especially in this wonderful town of Shrewsbury and in the last few years I have worked with the best.

The cast grew, I wanted to work with Genevieve Tudor from Radio Shropshire. We both started in Radio together thrity years ago, so it was lovely to work with her again Another first is that my Sister, Kathryn N. Lewis  is in the cast. We have never worked together before but I have always wanted to. Tal Bowen who has worked for me before as has Allan Price both joined the show.  So eventually we were well met with a cast to take on Lady Smock.

Regular readers of my work will be aware that I am a great supporter of minimal theatre, furniture can’t act! So employing Brechtian devices such as actors remaining at all times on stage,in sight of the public eye, the use of song, music and poetry and gesture all go to drive the story ahead. Focus is never lost from Mary and her short and sometimes tragic life.

It has been a fascinating project fitting the music, songs and poetry into the text. There is even a country-dance, The Dashing White Sergeant: all of this is needed to weave in to this incredible tale. A real Shropshire tale and one we as Salopians should know.

 Here is our dates list….

September19th.. Silvester Horne Institute, Church Stretton, 7pm for 7.30 curtain.

September 21st..Memorial Hall, Bayston Hill, 7pm for 7.30 Curtain

September 29th..The Willow Gallery in Oswestry, 7.30PM for an 8.00pm curtain.

All tickets are priced at eight pounds and admission is on the door only.

This has been a fascinating and highly creative process. All I can say is this, I sit here often enough offering my critical eye to so many shows it will be nice for you to see what it is I can actually do. It’s alright talking about it but can I do it? I of course believe I can, but your verdict is important come and see us. This will be a fun performance and if you have come across either Rowan Bartram or Phoebe Rees before you will know that this show will be a great experience for both performers and artists.

If you ever fancy belonging to a professional cast doing this kind of work then feel free to come up to me at any of these performances and give me your details and they will go on file and you will probably receive a call  in the near future. We are always delighted to meet talented people with lots to offer if that’s you find me and we shall see where you will fit in.

I will ask you as the reader to do me a favour. If you are reading it on Loveshrewsbury.com tell your friends, if you are reading this on Face Book or Twitter please forward and retweet. It only takes a second and could help us to reach everyone we want to tell about the show.

See you at Lady Smock? Very likely, I hope I hear you reply.

Owen J.Lewis

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Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet. Follow hos blogspot at https://owenscribblerlewis.blogspot.com

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