a play based upon the life of
local photographer Alice Longstaff

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Those of us living in the Calder Valley, can often take our area for granted. Not only do we have we stunning landscapes of great variety, we also have so a wealth of talented local writers and actors. Landscape, acting and writing were all moulded together and illustrated at their very best these past two weekend with performances of Square Peg Productionís Secretly Pleased at Land Farm.

Secretly Pleased

Secretly Pleased recounts the life of local photographer Alice Longstaff and her relationship with her husband John.

How hard it must be to write about about a well known local figure who you have never met, while knowing that many of your potential audience will have known her well. So Anna Carlisle deserves many plaudits for this well crafted play. The writing was excellent and brought to life with fine acting from Alexandra Mathie as Alice and Robert Garrett as John Longstaff. The husband and wife interactions felt realistic and their characters were unravelled with humour.

Land Farm

Great use was made of the stunning gardens at Land Farm as a backdrop and the audience moved from setting to setting half a dozen times. Thirty years ago Land Farm was just a hay meadow like the surrounding land. Now it is an oasis in our Pennine uplands 1000 feet up and full of a wonderfully, rich variety of plants and trees interspersed with tasteful sculptures.

Local historian Frank Woolrych was a friend of Alice and John. He is custodian of the Longstaff Collection and has made it his lifeís work to keep her priceless bequest to the valley in the public eye. Frank has written of Alice, "At the time her career began in 1921 photography had a particular importance for people. There was a sense of mystery about the relationship between camera and subject and what went on beneath that black cloth. Now it tends to be taken for granted. . . . Alice's contribution to local history cannot be overstated."

At the end of the production, the actors invited the audience to tell their stories of Alice. Some remembered being photographed by her, and Frank Woolrych was on hand to point out a photo from one of the more mature members of the audience as a young girl, printed in Aliceís Album.

If Square Peg Productions can continue to produce plays of the quality of Secretly Pleased, the residents of the Hebden Bridge and surrounding area are in for many more treats.

See also

Square Peg Productions

Alice Longstaff web page - order online "Alice's Album"

2007 Hebweb review and photos from Geoff Tansey


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