Dovery Manor Museum, Doverhay, Porlock, Somerset, TA24 8QB. United Kingdom
Chris de Vere Hunt’s splendid play 'When I Was a Boy' told stories of village life in Porlock as seen through the eyes of a young Vivian Perkins and the people he encountered from his birth to his marriage early in WW2. Guests were welcomed with wine and canapés in the Great Hall before gathering in the museum’s atmospheric solar, to enjoy an evening of tales, poetry and music.
Chris de Vere Hunt introduced the show before Penny Kelham welcomed everyone, she then set the scenes throughout the evening. Penny described the heady days of the ‘Roaring Twenties’, the backdrop for Vivian Perkin’s birth; subsequently presenting a 19 year old Vivian being called up to the Somerset Light Infantry in 1939. Mark Palmer’s sympathetic portrayal of the young Vivian transported the audience back to his childhood in the twenties, his large family and his largely happy schooldays as he introduced the audience to characters from his youth. Nigel Greenwood convinced as Mr Watts, the headmaster of Porlock School, with his instructions to ‘sit up straight’ and to ‘stop fidgeting at the back’! He had the audience laughing with a tale of a young Vivian knocking his hat off whilst playing football in the playground. Christine Greenwood’s sensitive reading of ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ by Robert Frost reminded everyone of the fleeting joys of youth.
The audience were then transported to Vivian’s mother, Daisy Perkins’, kitchen where Daisy, skilfully played by Stephanie Blake, affectionately welcomed a young bride Betty, splendidly portrayed by Tamra Bruce, to help make the cricket teas. The ladies shared their news whilst they made the sandwiches and Daisy described daily life for women in Porlock. A wonderful musical interlude followed as Chris de Vere Hunt gave a marvellous rendition of ‘Don’t have any more Mrs Moore’ causing much laughter.
Everyone was enthralled as Lady Mary, Countess of Lovelace (Christine Greenwood) told of her life and her delight at being asked to lay the foundation stone of the new Porlock Village Hall, designed by Charles Voysey. Bill Ball was a splendid Reverend Riches, the Methodist minister who saw the building of the new Methodist chapel in the village in 1927; he described the building of red sandstone from West Luccombe and Bath stone from near Montacute at a total cost of £4,600! The cast, as the Methodist choir, then gave a fine a Capella performance of the 1923 hymn Great is thy Faithfulness and an uplifting rendition of the Porlock Carol, Silver Star.
A second Robert Frost poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, delightfully and sympathetically read by Penny Kelham added to the atmosphere of the piece. Chris de Vere Hunt and Tamra Bruce expertly delivered news reports of the unveiling of the village War Memorial on Dunster Steep in 1921 by Major General Peck; the fire in Charlie Nicholls’ paint shop in 1928 and Mr MacDermot of Lillycombe Estate‘s discovery of a stone circle on Porlock Common; the 1930 transfer of Dovery Manor to Porlock and the 1936 top international award for barley grown at Court Place farm.
Nigel Greenwood’s excellent portrayal of Mr Smith, the ironmonger, kept everyone captivated as he brought the high street from the 1930s back to life going from shop to shop, including Rawle’s Dairy, Cape’s Grocers, a shoe shop, a sweet shop two bakeries and three ironmongers!
Throughout the evening Stephanie Blake (flute) and Chris de Vere Hunt (guitar) accompanied the cast and audience in some rousing singing of songs from the period. The evening’s entertainment was brought to a close as everyone joined in a fine rendering of ‘As Time Goes By’.
The audience and cast then exchanged reminiscences over coffee and chocolates, ably provided by Fiona Plumstead, John Blake and Rosalinde Haw. The drama was written and directed by Chris de Vere Hunt and produced by Dovery Manor Museum’s curator Dr Lita Strampp.
Pictured are –
Penny Kelham, Christine Greenwood, Nigel Greenwood, Mark Palmer, Tamra Bruce, Bill Ball, Chris de Vere Hunt(Writer and Director),Stephanie Blake
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When I was a Boy