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Suffolk legend gets drama sequel

PUBLISHED: 20:23 20 August 2002 | UPDATED: 12:30 03 March 2010

ONE of most famous Suffolk legends ever staged is joining the ranks of Star Wars, Austin Powers and Men in Black - and is going to receive a sequel!

The play Margaret Catchpole wowed audiences two years ago when acclaimed drama group the Eastern Angles performed the tale of the Suffolk lass who fell foul of the law for stealing a horse to attend a secret tryst with a lover.

ONE of most famous Suffolk legends ever staged is joining the ranks of Star Wars, Austin Powers and Men in Black – and is going to receive a sequel!

The play Margaret Catchpole wowed audiences two years ago when acclaimed drama group the Eastern Angles performed the tale of the Suffolk lass who fell foul of the law for stealing a horse to attend a secret tryst with a lover.

The play, set in the middle of the 19th century, ended with Catchpole, a maid with the Cobbold brewing family, being sentenced to deportation to Australia for her crime.

It is her harrowing experiences Down Under that form the basis of the as yet untitled sequel.

The author of both pieces, Glaswegian playwright Alistair Cording, said that some of the things that happened to her "would make your hair stand on end".

"It was a very fiercesome place in those days. There was no concept of re-educating prisoners, simply punishing them. The conditions of prisons were totally appalling."

One of the very few surviving source materials available to Mr Cording are letters that Margaret Catchpole sent to the Cobbold family asking for money.

He explained that this was for what was known as 'easement of fetters' – bribes to the gaoler to let prisoners out of their shackles.

"If you couldn't afford to pay, in theory they could keep you in irons all the time," he said. "I think this was what the money she asked for was for."

After serving her sentence Mr Cording said she probably went into service with a settler in Australia.

The play will be premiered by the Eastern Angles during their spring tour next year. The tour this autumn with an adaptation of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield.

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