I am currently working with Bolton Little Theatre on an unusual one day theater piece called Samuel Crompton – A Fine Spinner.
Samuel Crompton is one Bolton’s most famous sons, a gifted engineer and inventor who created one of the key machines of the Industrial Revolution – the Spinning Mule. It changed the face of the cotton industry, enabling a worker to reliably spin yard upon yard of cotton thread without it breaking. It was also very scalable, leading to huge mills with rows of machines and much of Bolton’s wealth was built on it. But the man himself saw only a fraction of the wealth that he might have earned from his genius, due to not patenting his invention, but instead accepting payments from mill owners to come and view his designs.
A Fine Spinner by Donna A Hughes, is the story of Samuel Crompton, his invention and his troubled relationship with the new world that machine ushered in. A cast of five actors from Bolton Little Theatre will be performing this one act play at Crompton’s former home of Hall’ith Wood, on Tuesday 26 July 2016, as one of the events celebrating Manchester’s status as European City of Science 2016. Admission is to the house and the play is free, and we will be performing the play three times during the day.
You can find out more about the year long festival at http://www.manchestercityscience.com
It has been an interesting challenge so far to plan this production. The author originally intended the play for the theatre, with multiple sets, scenes and a larger cast. My first job was to sensitively edit her play to make it feasible for staging in one room and with the minimum of props. I also had to cut several characters to bring the cast down to a manageable level. First to go was the narrator, a fictional neighbour of the Crompton’s. He was purely a narrator, with no other role in the story, so it seemed sensible to take him out and give parts of his speeches to the characters to perform to the audience as asides. It also made the speeches a little more dynamic if the people involved were relating them. I chose to remove the first scene altogether, featuring Sam and his sister Ruth as children, since child actors bring their own complications and the scene mostly repeated information for elsewhere. My other main deletion was the Prime Minister, since he only appeared for about half a page. Instead the other characters will act as if he is there, while he remains off-camera as it were.
Hall’ith Wood is now a museum, dedicated to telling the story of the house, its role in the English civil war and its most famous tenant – Samuel Crompton. Open Tuesdays and Saturdays, free admission. You can find out more about the place by visiting its website.
I’ll be sharing some details about this production when we start rehearsal. But for now, if you are free during the day on Tuesday 26th July 2015, please mark your diaries!