The New Hardy Players
'The Awkward Squad', from the 2018 production of The Trumpet-Major
Tim Laycock - Introduction
The scene you are about to see is from the New Hardy Players’ 2018 adaptation of The Trumpet Major, directed by Tim Laycock and Penny Levick. In the play Widow Garland, recently married to Miller Loveday, and her daughter Anne watch the local men drilling in the churchyard before evening service. They have various nick-names- The Bang- Up Locals, the Incapables; and reflect the rag-tag nature of the local village defence forces. The threat of invasion hangs over the whole story, and was a reality in Dorset in the years before the battle of Trafalgar, particularly for communities close to the coast. Although the action is largely comic, the underlying reality of the awful consequences of the imminent arrival of heavily-armed enemy troops gives the scene an air of desperation. How can these ill-prepared, poorly armed locals hope to defend their families and homes?
Hardy grew up hearing stories of the Napoleonic wars from his grandmother, and from neighbours living down the lane at Higher Bockhampton. The physical reminders of the preparations for invasion- the remains of beacons on the hills, tumbledown semaphore stations, and the pikes stored in readiness in the vestries of country churches- were all still to be seen in the area in the 1850’s. Corporal Tullidge, played here by Howard Payton, represents the many wounded veterans still living when Hardy was writing The Trumpet Major.
It seems that Hardy borrowed the idea of the comic potential of incompetent soldiers from an American story written during the Civil War. It would be interesting to know whether the writers of the Dad’s Army TV series were familiar with this scene. Certainly, for actors, it’s a wonderful piece to play, and great fun to perform! We hope you enjoy it.
The actors are:
Festus Derriman Ollie Hickey
Sergeant Stanner Andrew Munro
Miller Loveday Mike Staddon
Corporal Tullidge Howard payton
Recruits David Parsons
Drummer Tilda Sansom
Junior squad Maisie Sansom
Alastair Simpson - The Musical Direction
'As Musical Director for The New Hardy Players, as well as a Dorset-based folk musician and actor, I have researched the real-life musical references Hardy carefully lays out in his books. Every song or tune given in his many works relates to a piece of music that can be looked up and listened to. I often use these tunes as a starting place when composing the incidental music for our productions, which are often based on scripts that Hardy himself had a hand in originally writing. It is also interesting to note the direct and clear comparison between the main characters in ‘The Trumpet Major’ and those found in the Harlequinade form of theatre, which Hardy enjoyed during his time living in London; The New Hardy Players used and played upon this link in our 2018 production, excerpts of which were shown at this talk.'