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Stuff of Dreams takes Edith Pretty back to Sutton Hoo

PUBLISHED: 12:30 30 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:30 30 August 2019

Queen Raedwald (Dawn Brindle) and Edith Pretty (Kiara Hawker) sharing a moment at Sutton Hoo in Stuff of Dreams new play Edith: In The Beginning Photo: A|l Pulford

Queen Raedwald (Dawn Brindle) and Edith Pretty (Kiara Hawker) sharing a moment at Sutton Hoo in Stuff of Dreams new play Edith: In The Beginning Photo: A|l Pulford

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Review: Edith: In The Beginning, by Karen Forbes, Stuff of Dreams theatre company, Sutton Hoo, August 23-36

Basil Brown (Ivan Wilkinson) investigating the strange mounds at Sutton Hoo in Stuff of Dreams new play Edith: In The Beginning Photo: A|l PulfordBasil Brown (Ivan Wilkinson) investigating the strange mounds at Sutton Hoo in Stuff of Dreams new play Edith: In The Beginning Photo: A|l Pulford

The play 'Edith: In The Beginning' is subtitled 'The Fascinating Story of Mrs Pretty', and none of the hundreds of people who sat on their picnic chairs in front of Tranmer House watching the drama unfold would argue with that. It was a stunning location. We were watching Edith Pretty on her own doorstep; the burial mounds where the Sutton Hoo treasures were found were right behind us; and ghosts from the past haunted us in the gathering darkness.

The Stuff of Dreams Theatre Company specialises in local history plays, preferably performed on the site of the action, and this was a real Bank Holiday treat. The play (by Karen Forbes) largely centres on the life of lonely widow and mother Edith Pretty, sensitively played by elegant Kiara Hawker. She still mourns her husband (Joshua Gould), dead in the Great War, and there are scenes of his experiences which remind us of the strain on relationships and loss of life in that tragic period in our history.

Edith Pretty hires a local archaeologist Basil Brown (Ivan Wilkinson) to excavate the burial mounds, little thinking of the treasure they hold, and much of the play focuses on their developing friendship across class lines as finds begin to be made. A further piece of history intersperses the main story - Queen Raedwald (Dawn Brindle) appears, regal and unworldly, telling her own story. It is a rich historical mix.

The audience enjoyed the dramatic experience. I had a couple of worries about the production. Sometimes the more dramatic scenes seemed a little underpowered, where opportunities were missed for the audience to be more powerfully drawn in. The final section became slightly fragmented, as perhaps too many aspects of Edith Pretty's remarkable life were included to truly do them justice.

Edith Pretty (Kiara Hawker) sharing the news of the discoveries at Sutton Hoo in Stuff of Dreams new play Edith: In The Beginning Photo: A|l PulfordEdith Pretty (Kiara Hawker) sharing the news of the discoveries at Sutton Hoo in Stuff of Dreams new play Edith: In The Beginning Photo: A|l Pulford

But these are minor quibbles. Outdoor theatre is always a risk, but over this fine Bank Holiday it came into its own. We all enjoyed a wonderful story in a beautiful location on a glorious late summer evening.

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