‘Lyme and the Sea’ – a true celebration of community

The cast of ‘Lyme and the Sea’ – the fourth community play written by Andy Rattenbury especially for his hometown – on stage at the Marine Theatre in front of sell-out audiences (photo by Si Emmett)

Theatre Review by Lili Sheppard

LYME Regis’ most recent community play, ‘Lyme and the Sea’, sold out with remarkable praise and raving reviews of the four-night production.

The seaside town’s fourth community play was performed at the Marine Theatre from last week, with preparation beginning in October of last year, and parts allocated in January 2022.

After much anticipation, ‘Lyme and the Sea’, was staged following the success of previous community plays including ‘The Tempest of Lyme’, ‘Monmouth: A West Country Rebellion’, and ‘Are You Going to the Marine?’.

Written by born-and-bred Lyme Regis writer, Andrew Rattenbury, and directed by trained actress Tessa Morton, who also boasts ample experience in the world of directing, the play was a roaring success, finding itself labelled as “a heartwarming performance making everyone feel as though part of the community” and “a true celebration of Lyme Regis”.

The two-hour production explored the iconic timeline of the Jurassic Coast and revelled in the many famous figures who have influenced, or have been influenced by Lyme Regis, over the centuries; inclusive of literary figures such as Jane Austen, Lord Alfred Tennyson, J.R.R. Tolkien, Beatrix Potter, and Oscar Wilde, who each had an independent connection with the seaside town.

During the performance, the audience were transported back to Lyme’s first mention in the history books, when locals made their living boiling seawater for salt, through its periods as a thriving port and flourishing tourism resort, right up to the present day as it celebrates the town’s enduring relationship with the sea.

Although an informative play with an abundance of facts written into the script, the cast were able to subtly deliver the historic events in a comical and engaging way without it feeling like a history lesson.

For me, it was Anne King as the historian, and Martyn Ellis, the drunk fisherman, that stole the show as they performed with confidence, clarity and a natural stage presence, whilst Isabelle Grace Blech added the ‘ahh’ factor, playing young fossil hunter Mary Anning.

Musical director Declan Duffy brought the show together with his heart-warming, original songs based on Lyme Regis and written especially for the play, performed by the talented musicians and singers alongside some carefully chosen numbers by other artists.

It was clear to see that the key theme in the performance surrounded community and the many ways in which the sea unifies those living and visiting Lyme Regis – in both the past and present day.

Through talented acting, a well-researched storyline, strong vocals, and fun audience interaction, we were encouraged to feel as though part of the cast, and consequently, the wider community.

Overall, the effort and enthusiasm that each cast member demonstrated over the four evenings and in the rehearsals prior, was utterly commendable.

Throughout the performance, everyone in the audience sang along to the chorus, laughed alongside characters, revelled in the historic facts, and felt the warmth and inclusion quite clearly apparent in the play.

I very much look forward to the next one!

BACKSTAGE: Andrew Rattenbury – Writer; Tessa Morton – Director; Nicola Kathrens – Assistant Director; Declan Duffy – Musical Director; Jo Smith Oliver – Stage Manager; Rose May – Costumes; Tracey Blech – Communication and Marketing; with additional support from Kath Gigg, Nickie Johnson, David Ruffle and Nick Brown

CAST: Emily Blech – Sea mason, smuggler and singer (solo); Tracey Blech – Stage Manager and Monmouth; Howie Blow – Poet; Linda Crawford – Merchant and Lyme resident; Harriet Dickson – Historian; Declan Duffy – Caller and Malcolm, singer and guitar; Martyn Ellis – Fisherman, smuggler and stone boatman; Harry Ford – Henry de la Beche; Chris Gill – Ishmael and Jack Rattenbury, accordion and singer; John Gooden – Sir George Somers; Barbara Green – Lyme resident and singer; Neil Harvey – Stone Boatman, singer and ukulele; Richard Harvey – Sir Frances Walsingham, irate visitor and singer; Juliet Henman – Merchant; Anne King – Historian; Elaine Taylor – Story Teller 2; Horatio Lawrence – Sir Frances Palgrave and Lyme resident; Jane Littler – Queen Mary, Augustine and the Revenue Officer and singer; Karen MacGarvie – Poet; Yvonne Marsh – Lyme resident and singer; Hazel Meshane – Jane Austen; John Murphy – Merchant and Henry Hoste Henley; Adam Owen-Jones – Storyteller and singer (solo); Brian Rattenbury – Lyme resident and singer (solo); Derek Rigby – Dr Russel; Trudi Robson – Mary Anning and singer; Richard Stubbs – Geologist and Thomas Hollis; Andy Taylor – Wealthy Trader, Reverend Hodges and singer; Mick Upton – Lord Alfred Tennyson and guitar; Sasha Upton – Lyme resident, excise gaoler and church warden; Jane Wakefield – Director; Laura Williams – Lyme resident and singer; Deborah Winstone – Lyme resident and singer; Isabelle Grace Blech – Mary Anning as a child; Ruth Rose – prompt.

SINGERS AND MUSICIANS: Tim Bradley – Banjo, ukulele; Julie Burton – Singer; Harvey Causley – Singer, bass, guitar, percussion; Dominic Faulkner – Fiddle; Karen Hull – Singer; Gabby Rabbits – Singer; Sarah Smith – Piano; Theo Sudbury – Slight-guitar; Katy Tunstall – Singer; Mike Vass – Fiddle.

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