Hilaire Belloc’s The Four Men staged to mark anniversaries

Hilaire Belloc’s The Four Men will be performed  (contributed pic)Hilaire Belloc’s The Four Men will be performed  (contributed pic)
Hilaire Belloc’s The Four Men will be performed (contributed pic)
This October one of the county’s most beloved books is brought to the stage.

Hilaire Belloc’s The Four Men will be performed at the medieval Sullington Barn, near Storrington, at the foot of the Downs, keeping to the spirit of the book. For playwright Ann Feloy, it has been one of the greatest joys of her life to adapt this “wonderful and wholly unique book” for theatre. Ann, founder and CEO of Olly's Future in memory of her son, is dedicating the play to Oliver.

The Friends of the South Downs are sponsoring the two performances on Saturday and Sunday, October 28 and 29 at 2pm as part of the organisation’s centenary celebrations. This year also coincides with 70 years since Belloc’s death, which means all work by the great Sussex writer is out of copyright. Tickets are £15 for the afternoon performances, £10 for the morning walk and £22 for a combined ticket. All bookings are through Eventbrite. For more info on www.belloc-broadwood.org.uk

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“Staging the performances of Belloc’s classic is a perfect marriage of these two milestones,” Ann says. “Belloc’s quirky and yet poignant farrago is set in 1902 at the time of Halloween and is steeped in the beauty and mysticism of the landscape. Belloc, as the character Myself, takes a journey on foot across the breadth of the county, from east to west, marvelling at the splendour of the South Downs and Sussex countryside. He encounters three companions along the way – the whimsical Poet, the rumbustious Sailor and wise old Grizzlebeard. Together they meet some remarkable and comical characters on their four day, 92-mile long folk odyssey. They drink copious amounts of ale at the inns they stop at; they laugh, quarrel, tell tall tales and sing Sussex folk songs. They recount the legends of the Downs, describe their first loves and draw ever closer in friendship.”

Ann’s stage adaptation was first performed in 2009 at the New Park Theatre, Chichester and in 2010 it was nominated as one of the top ten plays at the Brighton Fringe Festival. More recently, it received a four-star review in The Stage when it was performed by the Conn Artists theatre company on a south-east regional tour.

“The Sullington performances are different in that they will be a dramatic reading by some of the former professional cast but there will be special emphasis on the traditional folk songs and ditties of Belloc, including a new composition written and performed by the Sussex Folk Orchestra. To add to the event, historian Chris Hare will lead a two-hour guided walk on both mornings, up on to the steep slopes near Sullington, over to Washington and then back in time for the performances in order to see some of the sights mentioned in the book. He is the author of Hilaire Belloc - The Politics of Living published last year.

"There will also be a beautiful photographic exhibition of some of the places in the book by photographer Dean Sephton.

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“Belloc grew up in Slindon, near Arundel, and after living in London, settled at Shipley, near Horsham, in later life. The book is dedicated to the county of Sussex, and in the preface, Belloc addresses the county as if it possessed a personality and were a living thing.”

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