The New Hardy Players
One of Thomas Hardy’s great pleasures in his later years was watching the rehearsals of adaptations of his novels. These were staged by the Dorchester drama group, the Hardy Players.
As a small child, Norrie Woodhall, nee Bugler, witnessed the rehearsals, and in 1924 played Liza-Lu in Tess of the D’urbervilles, and understudied her sister, Gertrude, who played Tess.
Norrie was always sad that the Hardy Players had disbanded, and so in 2005 when friends asked her what she would like for her 100th birthday, without hesitation, Norrie asked if the Hardy Players could be revived.
Within weeks rehearsals began for The Return of the Native, which was performed in July 2005.
With Norrie’s guidance the group decided to call themselves, The New Hardy Players, and Norrie’s wish to promote Dorset and Hardy was set in motion.
Since then six plays have been produced and £28,000 raised for charity, £19,000 of which has been donated to the Weldmar Hospice, Norrie’s chosen charity.
As well as the summer productions, the New Hardy Players have been busy raising money for Dorset charities through a programme entitled Dorset Voices, and in 2008, along with the Thomas Hardy Society and the William Barnes Society, staged a short Dorset Voices fundraising event to restore the painting, The Three Marys, to Max Gate, where it had hung in Hardy’s time.
In January 2010, when scripts and papers from the original Hardy Players looked set to go to America, The New Hardy Players staged Hardy’s Night – Chapter and Verse, and raised £4,500. Along with other grants and donations, the precious scripts were saved and are now in the County Museum.
So much has happened because of Norrie’s birthday request, and now in 2011, Norrie has made another special request - for the group to perform Tess of the D’urbervilles, which will be performed during June, July and August.
For more information please go to www.hardyonline.org