Leyland Historical Society
2nd October 2000 - Don't Start From Here.
On 7th October, we again welcomed the Mikron Theatre Company on their ninth visit to us. They had just completed their 31st Waterways Tour and were on their 21st Autumn Tour, which included a week’s tour around Shropshire (we being in the middle of this week – so they came a long way to see us).
This year for their performance, they acted out the life of Richard Trevithick, a man whose life story could cover quite a few books (though the best one is by L.T.C. Rolt – The Cornish Giant). The play “All Steamed Up” told the full story of his life, love and his enthusiasm for his ideas. While being almost famous for inventing the steam locomotive, (an idea developed by George Stephenson amongst others), his other inventions read like a wish list from the industrialists of the time.
The four professional actors took the large audience on a journey from his native West Country, where his early work with the Cornish mining engines made him very popular with everyone but Messrs Boulton & Watt who were so keen to keep their patents for the steam engine and therefore their profits untouched by this upstart from Cornwall.
The story continued with Trevithick and Gilbert taking the steam carriage up Camborne Hill in 1801, the first steam locomotive on the Pen y Darren tramway in 1804 that won him a wager but broke the fragile track not used to such heavy loads. With the “Catch Me Who Can” in 1808, he tried to interest the people of London in his new inventions, though he had another track problem. Eventually he got an offer he could not refuse and went to Peru to install his engines in the gold mines there. As usual his luck ran out when the revolution came under Simon Bolivar and his mining interests went west. He luckily met Robert Stephenson in Nicaragua who paid for his trip home after 12 years away. Despite many other ideas he died in London whilst planning another great scheme.
As far as this correspondent is concerned, this show is probably one of the best he has seen in the 23 years of shows I have viewed. Charley Moon played the part of Trevithick with as much enthusiasm as the man himself. This left Peter Toon, Kate Buxton and Shelley Halstead taking the parts of all the people that filled Trevithick’s life, including Kate playing his much put upon wife, Jane Harvey and Peter his assistant and friend Gilbert as well as an interesting Peruvian. Here’s to their tenth visit.
MIKRON THEATRE REVIEWS - 1994 to 2004.
Each year in our publication Leyland Chronicle under the title "Society Affairs" we review the previous years talks and events. The following shows how Mikron has figured in the Society's history.
I should point out that it was not an easy job to persuade some of the older members of the committee to this new flanged type of history presentation, they much preferred a lecture every time, however, they were prepared to let me try and fail as I was the new Chairman in 1994. Luckily for all concerned I proved them wrong.
4th October 1999 - Just In Time.
Monday 2nd October saw the return of Mikron Theatre Company with “Don’t Start from Here”, which was seen by an audience of eighty enthusiast punters. The cast of Richard Povall, back for the seventh time so got over his picture on all the tickets. He gave a wonderful performance slipping in and out of all the various characters, know all, train spotter, young kid, developer or protestor, the last two at the same time. He was helped in this by Elizabeth Eves, previously seen by us in “Imogen’s War”, whose parts included the other developer / protestor, country girl and numerous other parts.
In the middle of this were the two main characters of Judy and Pete, played by Anna Winslet and Edmund Harcourt. Ed was making a welcome return after an absence of two years. He was setting off from the country somewhere in Yorkshire to meet a girl called Judy who was travelling from Liverpool at a mid-point at the town of Eckford outside the Coach & Horses, an old coaching inn. The story told of their attempts to meet using all the modes of transport. Though Judy experience on the motorway with flashers, hitch hikers, the police, traffic wardens and numerous other people performed by the other two, until she abandoned the car for a bike was easy compared to Pete’s trip.
He took the morning train in the rush hour with Richard’s commuter and Liz’s ticket collector, before the two meeter and geeters accosted him on the main line station. A tram journey and walking children’s bus eventually got him to Eckford. Here, the story came close to home as they dealt with the problem of town centre redevelopment, their meeting place at the Coach & Horses being demolished for a transport interchange. So the story ended with Judy and Pete meeting at last in a cloud of building dust.
The story was interspersed with the usual songs, though “A Love Song” was a personal favourite. The actors using a variety of instruments from electric guitar, violin, drums, keyboards and flutes. It was only in the pub later that we discovered that Ed and Anna had got married in the last two years, so they were not acting the two lovers and yes she was the sister of Kate Winslet of Titanic fame. The show I would say was one of the best I had seen the company perform.
1st November 2004 - On The Line (The Story of British Railways)
5th October 1998 - Imogen's War.
1st October 2001 - Warehouse Hill
6th November 1995 - Beer Street
7th October 2002 - All Steamed Up - The Story of Richard Trevithick.
Now if you have been reading these pages in order you may realise that I saw "Just the Job" eleven years previously at the Stenson Bubble on the way to Nottingham. As this point Mikron were reviving a few old shows, "Just the Job" and "A Woman's Place" being two of them. I'm still holding out for "I'd Go Back Tomorrow"
7th October 1996 - A Woman's Place
6th October 1997 - Just the Job
2003 – The Missing Year – No Mikron historical play.
7th November 1994 - Manchester Super Mare.
The meeting on 4th October saw the return of the Mikron Theatre Company whose play this time was called “ Just in Time “. This told the story of three people on and around the commercial waterways of the Northeast. While the period of the play was contemporary, the characters often referred to the past carrying exploits of these waterways around the Aire and Calder Canal.
The cast of Richard, Vashi and Sophie played all the parts, with the usual high standard of performance. We later discovered (in the Pub) that Richard had actually spent a period of time on the boats learning the ropes (no really), his description of working in the hold with the grab crane does not make you rush to have a go. The cast again wished to thank the members for their support and tremendous response to the show, ours being their best-supported venue on their autumn tour.
On Monday 1st November we had the welcome return of the Mikron Theatre Company who performed their latest production entitled “On the Line”. This featured the four cast members on the journey to nowhere as they sat as passengers in a train held at a signal for the duration of the play, (believe me this happens – I have been there).
The cast included two familiar faces as Peter Toon returned (he was in the last production seen here – “All Steamed Up” about Richard Trevithick), accompanied by his new wife Marianne. They were joined by Liz Eves (who we had previously seen in Imogen’s War – about the Land Girls in the Second World War) and another newcomer Robert Took who had settled into the roles very well.
As the show progressed we discovered the history of railways over the last 200 years from that man again, Richard Trevithick and the Penydarren tramway, through the Stephenson’s and the first railway fatality and the many problems and challenges that the railways have met through the high point of the railways between the wars with the Big Four companies.
With the usual songs along the way the four stranded on the train gradually revealed more of their character as they got to know each other, rather than keeping to themselves in their own space in the carriage (double seat, double seat, gotta get a double seat – for fans of Ben Elton). Be it the old steam locomotive driver, the latent train spotter, the career woman and the out of control ticket collector as she tried to find out the reason for the delay, they all told their tales.
As the story got more up to date they covered all the “tions”, beginning in 1948 with nationalisation, followed by rationalisation under Beeching, then electrification in the 1960s and 1970s. This resulted in the removal of all the steam locomotives from the railways some less than 10 years old. As the show finished with the privatisation in the 1990’s we were left with the small question of where the railways go next as their train finally got them to their destination. The show was up to the theatre company’s usual great standard and we look to seeing them again for their new production next year.
Then I discovered how to do my own tickets
Our most attended and successful evening of the year was again the Mikron Theatre’s visit for the October meeting when they gave a professional performance of “ Imogen’s War “. This was the story of the land girls working on the narrow boats during the Second World War as they travelled along the Grand Union Canal from London to Birmingham with a load of Spam returning to London loaded with coal.
The cast of Richard Povall on his fifth visit to Leyland, Vashti MacLachan, Elizabeth Eves and Charley Moon all gave a professional performance. Elizabeth on her first visit to Leyland gave a confident and true reading of the title character as she left her sheltered home life and ventured onto the Cut and the life style of the boatees, (not bargees remember).
As Richard told me later, he likes Leyland for many reasons, the venue, the large and appreciate audience and the butties.
(I should explain the butties, when Mikron first ventured over the Pennines from their base in Marsden, my mother's first concern was "what and when are they going to have their tea/". She therefore started the tradition of making them numerous butties, cakes etc. to keep them going. A tradition that continues to this day as Doreen took over when mother could not do it anymore).
Monday 1st October saw the return of Mikron Theatre Company with “Warehouse Hill – the story of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal”, which was seen by an audience of eighty enthusiast members and another thirty visitors from the various local waterway societies and boat clubs. The cast of Richard Povall, back for the eighth time was on the Theatre’s 30th Waterway tour and this was their 20th Autumn tour. To help him tell the story of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, Richard had the rest of the cast of Charley Moon, returning to us after three years, and the two newcomers, Tracey Holderness and Rebekah Hughes.
They gave a wonderful performance slipping in and out of all the various characters, as they switched time periods. They started the story of the canal from two beginning points, the plans for the original canal in 1793 and the forming of the canal society in 1974. One strand followed the story as the canal was built with all the problems of the lack of funds, various engineers resigning and the constant problems of the tunnelling under Standedge. While the other strand followed an out of work couple of actors who inherited a house next to the derelict canal and worked on the various schemes over the years to improve and restore the waterway.
After the break, the story of the leggers (nicely done – I have tried it under Dudley), the people who worked the canal and then built the later three rail tunnels was brought up to the dereliction of the canal with the last boat, the Alisa Craig, passing through in 1948. The other strand got the story up to date with the Lottery monies and the full restoration of the canal in 2001. The cast performed with their usual flair, the number of instruments this year including banjos, keyboards, double saxophones and of course guitars. The enthusiasm of the cast can be seen as they perform their hearts out.
The night saw additional new members, which together with further renewals made the membership currently total 113, a record for our second meeting. Richard at the end of the evening thanked the Society for a wonderful response and says we are the best-organised event and audience on the autumn tour.