THE National Trust is to be applauded for allowing November Club – a North East theatre group which performs in interesting and unconventional spaces – to take over Wallington in Northumberland: the result is this memorable piece of promenade theatre.
It is the story, real and imagined, of the Trevelyan family and their world, from Sir Charles, the socialist Newcastle MP, to the present day.
We are warned that time is on hold here, and that the familiar ropes in the great house have been removed.
The show begins at the Clock Tower, with the dramatic appearance of explorer Gertrude Bell (Molly Trevelyan’s half-sister) and her servant.
Then, with the house now illuminated, we are divided into three groups and embark on our intimate journeys in the safe hands of a guide, each of whom has their own tale to tell.
One group, the Zebras, who are evacuees from Elswick, are led by ‘Miss Pat’, Patricia Trevelyan, played by Zoe Lambert, who radiates all of the passionate enthusiasm associated with the lady herself.
We go on to encounter James Lees-Milne in the leafy estate office, catch glimpses of Dame Sybil Thorndike rehearsing and even visit the attics where we, as blanket- carrying schoolchildren, will sleep.
Other journeys will encounter the lonely old nurse in the silent nursery or Sir Charles in conversation with Gertrude Bell.
The show ends in the magnificent Central Hall with the tenants’ party, to which we are all invited.
It is here that we witness Sir Charles giving his home to the National Trust for the enjoyment of future generations.
Director Cinzia Hardy and the company are to be congratulated on their achievement, weaving Wallington’s stories together so deftly and imaginatively to convey the many facets of an extraordinary family.
As we leave the house there is a sense that we have been more than mere visitors.
As Janet Hall (Sir Charles’ granddaughter) tells us, we are now all part of the rich history of the house itself.