The New Hardy Players

2011 -  August 2015

Following the passing of dear Norrie Woodhall on the 25th October 2011, the New Hardy Players’ wish to continue her vision of promoting Thomas Hardy and performing adaptations of his novels, has led to the group burgeoning into one of Dorset’s best known and well- loved drama groups.  We have attracted actors and musicians of a high calibre,  who have a growing reputation for portraying Hardy’s characters in a truly believable way.

2012 gave the players the opportunity to perform at Max Gate. And it was in this special setting that scenes from Tess of the d’Urbervilles and The Mayor of Casterbridge were performed. How dear Norrie would have loved to have seen that!

In 2013, one hundred years after the original Hardy Players performed it, and in which, Norrie’s sister, Gertrude Bugler played Marty South, the New Hardy Players performed, The Woodlanders, the novel which Hardy thought to be his best. The 21st century adaptation truly captured the woodland spirit and was performed to great acclaim.

To commemorate the centenary of the beginning of World War 1, in 2014, the players presented, Wessex Scenes, (a culled version of part of Hardy’s epic drama, The Dynasts), which Hardy had written in 1916 for the original Hardy Players, and whose performance supported the work of the Red Cross. This was the first time the play had been performed since 1916, and the extensive Dorset tour received much praise.

Part of Norrie’s centenary birthday wish was for the New Hardy Players to support financially the work of the Weldmar Hospice, and by the end of 2014 the group had raised £33,500 for the Weldmar Hospicecare Trust, £1,000 for Julia’s House, £14,000 for other local charities, including, Heroes Haven and Blind Veterans. The group also helped the Dorset County Museum to raise £58,000 to bring unique Hardy manuscripts back home to Dorset.

 In 2015 the New Hardy Players are supporting Weldmar Hospicecare Trust, Julia’s House and the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

For their tenth anniversary the New Hardy Players decided to perform the dramatization of Hardy’s favourite novel, The Return of the Native, which was the group’s inaugural play. Originally performed in 1921, the play, which is a tale of Intrigue, Hope and Destiny, was performed at four venues in Dorset, including Max Gate, and achieved the most ticket sales to date.

There have also been a series of other presentations being made at Hardy locations during 2015.

 ‘Tea with Mr Hardy’, directed by our artistic director, Tim Laycock, was performed at Max Gate during June, July and August and was a huge success. So was ‘Woodland Words’, which was staged at Hardy’s birthplace, and at the opening of Hardy’s Birthplace Visitor Centre at Thorncombe Woods.

 In May the players presented  ‘Maritime Matters’ (based on Wessex Scenes) at a significant national event for the National Trust, at Stonebarrow overlooking Golden Cap.

Our tenth anniversary year has proved to be our busiest and most productive, and it’s not over yet. For October 2015 the Players have been invited to open and close the first Dorchester Literary Festival with two Spirit of Place performances at Max Gate. Small groups will circulate through various scenarios staged in four rooms, each reflecting Hardy’s life and pursuits at Max Gate, all followed by a seasonal mummers play in the garden.

As we look back to our first production we feel so much gratitude for all the help and encouragement we have received from so many folk over the years, especially the sincere and enthusiastic support from The Lord and Lady Fellowes of West Stafford, and we are very thrilled that they have kindly agreed to be our Patrons.

Devina Symes

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