The Battle of Heptonstall is a fast moving community play with a cast of sixteen local actors. It tells the story of the 1643 battle of the same name through a family of clothiers, the Cockcrofts as they struggle to keep the Civil War at a distance, to carry on making cloth, surviving without taking one side or another. Accompanying the narrative there is both period and original music by arranger and composer Katie Chatburn, all performed in the majestic setting of St Thomas the Apostle Church Heptonstall. The play is written and directed by playwright Michael Crowley and funded by Sky Arts as part of their Art 50 programme. Sky came to Heptonstall to film selected scenes before Christmas for a TV programme about the arts in Britain to be broadcast on the eve of exiting the EU. The play is the culmination of a year-long process of research, writing, composing and rehearsal and produced by The Brutish Multitude, a company established specifically for the project.
“…for the multitude is so Brutish, that they are ever in the extreames of kindnesse or Cruelty, being void of Reason and hurried on with an unbridled violence in all their Actions, trampling down all respect of things Sacred and Civill… The People becomes a most pernicious Tyrants.”
Marchamont Nedham, pamphleteer for Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell
Local writer and director Michael Crowley developed the play with residents, writing a few scenes each week then reading them through with the company round the table at the local bowling club. The script was completed by the middle of September 2018 and continues to be developed during rehearsals. Michael is also a published poet and novelist and his script employs several sonnet driven monologues along the way. For example:
Royalist Sir Francis Mackworth on the condition of England…
‘A whole people think popery at their doors.
Scandalous pamphlets pour oil on the flames
demanding liberty of conscience so called,
of men’s houses and men’s wives. They do defame
his majesty, but those who speak of the
King’s part they are marked down to be killed.
The times are a distemper where men’s hearts
beat as drums mustering a fury, blood filled.
People will think it strange there were such days
when brother killed brother, when friend wished
death upon friend. God has given man unto a craze,
reason is drowned and gone mute as the fishes.
Upon the hilltop there are roundheads aplenty.
They are in need of Christ and nightly await my cavalry.’
There is a promotional film about the play and the battle itself and there will be a public lecture The Battle of Heptonstall of 1643, on Monday February 4th, 7pm at Hebden Bridge Town Hall. £6 through eventbrite.co.uk . The play is to be performed from Thursday 28th February to Saturday 2nd March at 7:30 at St Thomas the Apostle Church, Heptonstall HX7 7NT. Tickets £10 via eventbrite.co.uk