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by Elizabeth Gaskell, arranged by Martyn Coleman

Directed by Sue Worker
October 7, 8 & 9, 2010

Mrs Gaskell Barbara Williams
Miss Matilda Jenkyns Valerie Clarke
Martha Katherine Plummer
Mary Smith Emma Kimsey
Miss Pole Bieneke Barwick
Miss Barker Alison Marshall
Mrs Forrester Estelle Dunham
The Hon. Mrs Jamieson Angela Charles
Mr Hoggins Ritchard Tysoe
Lady Glenmire Jo Williams
Jem Hearn David Bowers
Coachman Tag

Programme Notes        [Photographs]

The entire action takes place in Miss Matty's parlour in the village of Cranford.

Scene 1: Noon, a sunny day in autumn 1830
Scene 2: Late afternoon, the following day
Scene 3: Late afternoon, some months later

Scene 1: Evening, a week later
Scene 2: Two days later
Scene 3: Several months later

--- SLP ---

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
who was born on the 29th September 1810, in Chelsea, was often referred to as simply Mrs Gaskell. She was a British novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and as such, are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature.

is the best known of her novels. It was first published in 1851 as a serial in the magazine Household Worlds, which was edited by Charles Dickens.

The fictional town of Cranford is closely modelled on Knutsford in Cheshire, which Mrs Gaskell knew well. The book has little in the way of plot and is more a series of episodes in the lives of Mary Smith and her friends, Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two spinster sisters. The "major" event in the story is the return to Cranford of their long-lost brother, Peter, which in itself is only a minor portion of the work, leaving the rest of the novel at a low-key tone.

Even though her writing conforms to Victorian conventions (including signing her name "Mrs. Gaskell"), Gaskell usually frames her stories as critiques of contemporary attitudes: her early works focused on factory work in the Midlands. She always emphasized the role of women, with complex narratives and dynamic female characters.

In addition to her fiction, Gaskell also wrote the first biography of Charlotte Brontë, which played a significant role in developing her fellow writer's reputation.