In the late 18th century, the Kentish coast was a smugglers paradise. Profits were great, revenue ships too few and in many of the towns and villages the entire populace was involved in the business of sending woof to France and bringing brandy and tobacco back. This opera deals with one suck village.
Into the quiet Sunday of Dymchurch march English sailors, led by Captain Collyer the coast agent, send to catch smugglers of the Marsh. They are received at the inn by Mrs Waggetts, the landlady, Imogene, her helped, the Squire and his shy son Denis, the physician, Mr Pepper, and the much-loved vicar Dr. Syn. They are watched by the potboy Jerry, who saves up his earnings to build a gallows to hang his detested schoolmaster, Mr Rash. Gradually, over the next two days, much more is uncovered than was looked for - a host of phantoms, two murders, attempted treachery, and a dead man who dies a second time. Only at the end are all the mysteries unraveled so the Captain Collyer can depart, the villagers return to their farms – and Mr Mipps' coffin shop can be closed.
The story of Dr. Syn does not follow tradition plot-lines but focuses instead on the idiosyncrasies of the individual characters, and the peculiarities of life in economically depressed Kent in the late 18th century: many of the people are driven by their own curious fears, fantasies and obsessions, and for the general population living standards were low enough to leave common folk pot-bellied and disfigured by malnutrition and poor diet. Little wonder whole communities turned to smuggling as an escape from hardship.
Much of the action is determined by mood rather than event, and so location plays a lesser role than atmosphere. 'Where we are' is only lightly indicated in an otherwise bare acting space: what we discover and feel is the prime concern, so the emphasis has been laid on the thoughts and feelings of the characters. On occasion the stage is even 'in two places at once'. Furthermore a powerful sense of mystery pervades the piece: as the plot proceeds the mysteries begin to clear, like the morning mist over the marshes. A prime objective of the production was to play with an develop this sense of the mysterious.
At the centre of the piece is Dr. Syn himself, the vicar of the community on the Romney Marsh. It seems only too appropriate that his story should unfold in the space and ambience of a church such as St Mary's, Ashford, here in the heart of Kent.
P.Y & C.Y
The Gentry -
Sir Anthony Cobtree, the Squire - Tony Denny
Danis Cobtree, his son - Sam Collins
Dr. Syn, the Vicar - Daryl Brown
Mr Pepper - Paul Sprawson
The Villagers -
Mr Rash - Matthew Forbes
Mr Mipps - Daniel Hester
Mrs Waggetts - Becky Chesson
Imogene - Alison Withey
Jerry Jerk - Robert Cole
Readers of the Murder Notice - Nicola Jarrett
- Edmund Jackson
The Sailors -
Captain Collyer - Michael Wrate
Bosun - Stephanie Wells
Dumb Man - Sheamus Bourke
Chorus of Villagers & Sailors -
Directed by Patrick Young