There can be no doubting our country’s rich and dramatic history and no more so when it comes to the story attached to Lyme Regis.
Friday 16 June marked a very important anniversary for this stereotypical English seaside resort; 2017 is the 373rd anniversary of the deliverance of Lyme from the Royalist siege. I wrote a blog post and a piece for Dorset Magazine that you can read here http://www.dorsetmagazine.co.uk/people/the-siege-of-lyme-regis-what-inspired-inhabitants-to-fight-the-royalists-1-4117562
This primary link with our country’s history doesn’t end there, you will find all manner of interesting connections to the past in Lyme Regis and never more so than in the Marine Theatre that is steeped in history. For instance, did you know it was originally Georgian salt baths and what is now the dressing room was the pump room where the sea water was pumped straight into the baths for the Georgian gentlemen to ‘take the salts’. I have a bit of a thing for history and I always enjoy explaining the theatre’s story to our visitors or for that matter, our performers, if they have the time/energy to spare before they start setting themselves up on the stage.
And this past week was no exception, not only did we have dozens of holidaymakers popping in to see our beautiful theatre, we also had Chris Jagger performing and for three nights, ‘Gaslight’. This was alongside our usual hires and also the dress rehearsals for our community play ‘The Monmouth Rebellion’ that has reached fever pitch with just one month to go before curtains-up!
I was Duty Manager for the Chris Jagger performance and whilst his links may not be historic, they are nevertheless quite significant in the field of musical history so I wasn’t sure if we might have to deal with the paparazzi and a bevy of beauties. But it soon became clear this was going to be a very pleasant easy-going performance that everyone enjoyed.
Gaslight was in complete contrast to Mr Jagger; not in audience enjoyment levels but in performance type. We were transported back to a shabby flat in Victorian London where Mr Manningham tormented his poor wife, however Mrs M wasted not time in rebelling when her husband’s wicked secret was revealed. I have a hunch that if the 17th century Lyme Regis rebels were still around they would have joined in the applause as the curtains came down on the closing scene of Mr M being hauled off by the local bobby!
But it was whilst I was sitting in the staff canteen aka Theatre Square that I thought I had finally travelled back in time; the square was clear of shorts & t-shirt with flip-flop clad holidaymakers when out of nowhere stepped a fully clad Lyme Regis rebel from c.1660. He had purpose in his stride and seemed quite at home as he approached from the seaward side.
With the seagulls screeching overhead and the sound of the sea hushing into shore just as they have over millennia, I had nothing to reach for other than my 21st century appendages in the form of my iPhone and bottle of water. Would I be forced to join the rebel march or thrown into the sea for refusing allegiance? But I had nothing to fear, it was one of the characters from the community play dressed in full costume. He soon explained his appearance – he’d been selling tickets for the Monmouth Rebellion raffle and if you haven’t yet bought your ticket, don’t delay, with the amazing prizes on offer they are selling like hot cakes.
So after a brief catch-up with David Ruffle it was back to the safe environs of the ex-Georgian baths and both World Wars’ drill hall. I cannot deny that when I lock up late at night when everyone has gone and the theatre is completely dark and quiet, I’m sure I can hear the defiant and mutinous mutterings of rebels past as they stalk the stage in search of royalist supporters or maybe it’s the musings of the Georgian gentlemen smarting form the cold sea water that once upon a time spilt onto the old theatre floor, but that’s another story altogether…