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Darlington Civic Theatre hosts true tale of 12th Century romance

Love will be in the air in Darlington this spring as history's most enduring romance blossoms once more. Barbara Hodgson reports

David Sturzaker and Jo Herbert as Abelard and Heloise in Shakespeare's Globe's Eternal Love
David Sturzaker and Jo Herbert as Abelard and Heloise in Shakespeare's Globe's Eternal Love

If you haven’t heard of Abelard and Heloise then you’re in for a treat when English Touring Theatre introduces the pair to North East theatre-goers with a Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre play which has gone down a storm in the capital.

It tells the extraordinary true story of an ill-fated love affair between scholar and theologian Pierre Abelard and his student Heloise d’Argenteuil - both quite brilliant minds in 12th Century France.

It certainly wasn’t all a story of romance and roses, but one which involved seduction, pregnancy, a secret marriage and then castration before ending with his becoming monk and she a nun.

So it was more the scandal of the age, which we know about from a series of later letters between the pair, which document their former relationship then are reduced to sharing thoughts on religious matters.

Eternal Love, The story of Abelard & Heloise, which comes to Darlington Civic Theatre in March, is written by Howard Brenton.

Brenton has managed to find plenty of humour in the fiery tale, which sees the pair question key beliefs of their day and is told in dynamic, contemporary language with the help of stunning costumes and live music.

Brenton is an often controversial writer, whose play The Romans in Britain prompted a legal battle with Mary Whitehouse over its depiction of a homosexual rape.

The 71-year-old’s range of writing also includes poetry, a novel, several episodes of TV drama hit Spooks, and Pravda, a satirical play he co-wrote with David Hare which explores the role of journalism and starred Anthony Hopkins when it was first produced at the National Theatre in 1985.

He once remarked: “Sartre said there are three kinds of writers: writers who write for God, writers who write for themselves, and writers who write for other people.

“I write for other people. The play doesn’t reside in heaven, or in a library. As a dramatist, that’s your instinct: without other people, the play doesn’t exist.”

His award-winning play Anne Boleyn, which was named best touring production at Theatre Awards UK in 2012, also came to Darlington Civic Theatre, where the current revival of Eternal Love - involving the original creative team - stops off on March 4 on the National Touring Group’s inaugural national tour, marking the 21st birthday year of the consortium made up of eight major UK venues.

The play, developed from a draft first started by Brenton in 1997, made its debut at the Globe Theatre in 2006 and was initially called In Extremis before its title was changed to Eternal Love.

English Touring Theatre director Rachel Tackley said: “The aim of the National Touring Group is to bring productions of a size and ambition rarely seen on tour to audiences nationwide, while simultaneously giving much-deserved further life to fantastic, critically-acclaimed shows.

“We are thrilled that audiences across the country will have the opportunity to see David Sturzaker and Jo Herbert reunite on stage, leading such a brilliant cast, in another fabulous Globe production.”

Eternal Love, The story of Abelard & Heloise, runs at Darlington Civic Theatre from March 4-8 with performances at 7.30pm nightly and matinees at 2pm on Thursday and 2.30pm on Saturday.

Call 01325 486 555 or visit www.darlington.gov.uk/Leisure/civictheatre/civic.htm for tickets.


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