Review: Margaret Catchpole, Eastern Angles, Hush House, Bentwaters Parks, Rendlesham, until July 8

Set against the backdrop of the smuggling trade on the shores of 18th century Suffolk, this is an emotionally charged true story about loyalty and love.

At its centre is servant girl Margaret Catchpole, who falls for sailor of sorts Will Laud only to fall foul of the law with tragic consequences. Alastair Cordling’s play, deftly directed by Ivan Cutting, makes it painfully clear her only crime was to love too much.

Last performed in 2000, it’s been tweaked to get the most out of its new setting; the atmospheric Hush House. It, and the new music by Jonathan Girling, really helps spirit you back to a time when life on the land was hard but life on the sea was deadly.

The community chorus, another new addition, lent strong support to the six-strong professional cast, all of whom were great. There were no cardboard country caricatures here.

Liam Bewley as Margaret’s sweet-natured suitor John Barry and Francis Woolf as her misguided lover Will Laud particularly stood out; both doing what they thought best for Margaret and both getting it spectacularly wrong.

Rosalind Steele as Margaret was the clear star for me. A stunning blend of fortitude and fragility, calm and chaos, she was captivating to watch.

She really connected with the audience who, despite her misguided behaviour, were rooting for her every step of the way. As for the emotional ending, I saw several people dabbing their eyes as Margaret disappeared into the horizon.

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An amazing insight into a Suffolk legend and into the things we do for love.

WAYNE SAVAGE

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