Ben Hur Community Project Premieres in BathDate: 14 October 2010
A new stage adaptation of Ben Hur by award-winning playwright Hattie Naylor, and presented by The People of Bath, will receive its world premiere at the Theatre Royal Bath.
The creation of Bath’s large-scale community production of Ben Hur has been made possible following a bequest from actress Margot Boyd, well-known for her long-standing portrayal of Marjorie Antrobus in Radio 4’s The Archers. The result of a year-long collaboration between a team of theatre professionals and 180 members of the public, the making of Ben Hur has been filmed by BBC1’s Imagine.
Ben Hur is the epic story of the life and times of Judah Ben-Hur, whose extraordinary journey takes him from wealthy merchant to galley slave to champion charioteer and witness at the Crucifixion. Originally published as a novel in 1880 by American General and author, Lew Wallace, it was William Wyler’s 1959 film which starred Charlton Heston in the title role, and won eleven Academy Awards, which really caught the public’s imagination.
Plans for this unique staging of Ben Hur were first conceived when the trustees of the estate of the late Margot Boyd contacted the Theatre Royal. Born and educated in Bath, the actress always kept a strong affection for the city. When she died in 2008 at the age of 94, she stated in her Will that she wanted to encourage local people to experience the excitement of being involved in theatre.
Members of the public were invited to work with the Theatre Royal’s professional team to create a large-scale community production. Every aspect of the staging was thrown open to local people. Amongst the numerous people who signed up, their experience of live performance ranged from non-existent to substantial. Some participants signed up as individuals, whilst others took the opportunity to take part in the experience as an entire family.
A total of 180 people have taken on the challenge to be involved in this ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity. In addition to over 100 cast members and a 25-strong choir, a team of volunteers have opted to work behind-the-scenes assisting with props, wardrobe and administration.
The range of local performers – playing roman citizens, slaves, market traders, lepers and even the sea itself – spans estate agents, community workers, teachers, hairdressers, air ambulance staff, school children and retired people. The company members all hail from Bath and the surrounding area with ages ranging from 8 to 80 years.
Ben Hur premieres at Theatre Royal, Bath from 29 – 31 October.