06 July 2012

Grace Darling


The story of the Victorian sea rescue heroine Grace Darling is to be brought to the stage.

Tyneside-based Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood, whose international and national stage hits include Dirty Dusting, Waiting For Gateaux, Maggie’s End and Son of Samurai, have penned Amazing Grace to celebrate the achievements of the first Victorian female heroine, who tragically died in 1842 aged only 26, four years after her heroic deed off the Northumberland Coast between Bamburgh and Seahouses.

Grace Darling and her lighthouse keeper father lived on Longstone island when, in a storm on September 7, 1838, the SS Forfarshire struck the notorious Harcar rocks, a part of the Farne Islands. Of the 63 people on board, nine managed to escape in the lifeboat while Grace and her father selflessly manned a coble to heroically rescue 9 people stranded on the rocks.

Queen Victoria sent £50 for Grace which was administrated by the Duke of Northumberland and three  Bravery medals were bestowed on her by three separate Humane Societies and the RNLI. After Victoria, Grace became the most well know woman in 19th century Britain.

The play will tell the story of Grace Darling through the eyes of a modern-day writer called Grace who wants to make a film about her famous namesake.

Trevor Wood explained: “It’s a funny, modern take on a wonderful story and will appeal to everyone aged from 13 to 113. We want to celebrate Grace’s achievement whilst illustrating how the Hollywood machine can play fast and loose with the facts.

“Grace was the first working-class female celebrity – the Cheryl Cole of her time – and the play is a tribute to her achievement.”

Amazing Grace will include film of some famous Northumberland landmarks and is being co-produced by Alnwick Playhouse with the support of Sunderland University.

Jo Potts, manager of Alnwick Playhouse, said: “Alnwick Playhouse is excited to premiere this new play based on and around Grace Darling. Her unique story is rooted firmly in the Northumberland landscape and deserves to be told.”

Judith Hills, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at Sunderland University, said: “We are very excited to be involved in Amazing Grace. It’s a novel approach to fantastic story which I’m sure will make a terrific piece of theatre.”

The three-week north east tour will begin with a world premiere at Alnwick Playhouse on Wednesday, October 17, as follows:

Alnwick Playhouse: 01665 510 785 Wednesday, October 17; Thursday, October 18 (evening and matinee); Friday, October 19
Consett Empire01207 218171 Saturday, October 20 (evening and matinee)
Hexham Queen’s Hall: 01434 652477 Monday, October 22 and Tuesday, October 23 (evening and matinee)  
Gala theatre (Durham): 0191 332 4041 Wednesday, October 24 and Thursday, October 25 (evening and matinee)  
Hartlepool Theatre: 01429 890 000 Friday, October 26  
Gateshead Old Town Hall: 0191 433 6965 Saturday, October 27     
Customs House (South Shields): 0191 454 1234 Monday, October 29 and Tuesday, October 30 (evening and matinee)
Blyth Phoenix theatre: 01670 367 228 Wednesday, October 31   
Berwick Maltings: 01289 330999 Thursday, November 1 and Friday, November 2 (evening and matinee)
Playhouse Whitley Bay: 0844 277 2771 Saturday, November 3 (evening and matinee)

Tickets for Amazing Grace are on sale from the venues. For further information visit www.edwaughandtrevorwood.co.uk

The duo's play Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather is playing the 900-seat Darlington Civic Theatre from July 24 to 17.

Amazing Grace is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England