Belloc classic on West Sussex theatre tour

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A West Sussex playwright and company of actors bring to the stage a new adaptation of The Four Men by Hilaire Belloc.

Conn Artists Theatre Company debut the piece at the Connaught Theatre on October 5 and 6, before heading out on tour. Other dates include: Saturday, October 7, 7.30pm – Memorial Hall, South Downs Centre, Midhurst; Wednesday, October 11, 7.30pm – White Rock Theatre, Hastings; Thursday, October 19, 8pm – The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, Havant; Saturday, October 21, 7.30pm – Under Ground Theatre, Eastbourne; Thursday, October 26, 7.30pm – The Capitol, Horsham.

The Four Men follows one of Sussex’s greatest writers, Hilaire Belloc, as he takes a spur-of-the-moment Hallowe’en journey on foot across Edwardian Sussex, from east to west, with three companions. During their four-day odyssey, they travel 92 miles, drink 300 pints of beer, quarrel, laugh and sing as they tell each other tall tales, recount the legends of the Downs, speak of their first loves and meet some remarkable characters as their adventure unfolds.

The Four Men has been newly adapted for the stage by Worthing playwright Ann Feloy from Hilaire Belloc’s book of the same name. Originally created by Ann as a short, single-act piece which was nominated as one of the top ten plays at the Brighton Fringe Festival in 2010, the new two-act extended version has been re-written to include more of Belloc’s original text.

Supported by the South Downs National Park Authority and Worthing Theatres, the celebration of Sussex life and the Downs tours to nine venues after the Connaught Theatre.

Director Nick Young, who trained as a director with the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: “The production is a cross between Larkrise to Candleford and Three Men in a Boat. It includes traditional folk songs alongside famous pieces of classical music by Sussex-inspired composers Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar.

“The play celebrates a world in part gone but from which the sights and sounds remain; the past is forever present to anyone who opens their eyes and ears, wishing to feel a part of Sussex and its countryside. This play is perfect for anyone who loves the great outdoors and the beauty of the English language.”

Producer Ross Muir, who also appears in the play, added: “A quote from Bernard Smith in his book, Writers of Sussex, has remained our inspiration throughout; he wrote ‘Belloc loved Sussex as few other writers have loved her; he lived there for most of his 83 years, he tramped the length and breadth of the county, slept under her hedgerows, drank in her inns, sailed her coast and her rivers and wrote several incomparable books about her.’ We have created the play as a true testament to that love.”

Tickets from the venues.