On a dark evening at the close of January 1823, Helen is writing to her husband Tom, in rather purple prose. It sits uneasily on her, but she wants to try out a posh voice, those big funny words the rich people use.
Not that she wants to sound like them, with their laugh that sounds like a goose trying to wriggle its way out of its own arse. Nor will she be looked down on; life on the farm might bring them closer to animals but they won’t be in service. There is both hardness and sweetness in this life.
Time are changing though, there is a revolution going on. Tom has been away in unfathomable Manchester for three weeks, only sending one letter and nary a word since. It’s like he has been swallowed by ‘Cottonopolis’, the world’s first industrial city. In this “funny arrangement”, she has been learning some odd jobs to keep her self-sufficient and the land alive.
She is caught at a crossroads. Her world might not be changing but industry appears to be the future, albeit one cloaked in great black clouds of smoke from factory chimneys. With the devil’s own winter dragging on it looks like the end of the world.
No one knows when things will come to an end but darkness can’t be felt like the sun and the land; there will always be the seasons. She will need to journey to that other land of noise and thronging people to separate present and future.
This evocative monologue feels rooted in the Romantic movement’s reverence to nature in contrast to the "Dark satanic mills" of Blake's poem, but could also question equality, emancipation or conformity.
Elegantly performed, with grit but also warmth and wit woven with atmospheric sound design, it’s a pleasant discovery.
Show Times: 21 – 26 August 2017 at 6.30pm.
Tickets: £7 (£6) (£22 family).