A spectacular open-air theatrical production of the iconic book Black Beauty is set to tour the UK this summer at some of the most magnificent Heritage and country houses in Britain. This is the first time that the hugely popular Anna Sewell novel, which has sold over 50 million copies world-wide, has ever been adapted for the stage.
The 27 date tour will be appearing at 15 of the of the most prestigious and beautiful estates in England and Scotland, beginning at Woburn Abbey on July 7th and 8th, and will travel the length and breadth of the UK, from Scone Castle in Scotland to Prideaux Place in Cornwall. Other venues include Althorp House, Castle Howard, Lulworth Castle, Berkeley Castle,
Hagley Hall, Avington Park, Capesthorne Hall, Holker Hall and Ingatestone Hall before its grand finale at Harewood on August 26th. Tickets for all shows will go on sale on Friday March 30th at 9.00am (ticket details below).
Produced by award-winning BBC Playwright Susannah Daley and PEEL Heritage, the story has been carefully adapted by James Stone in order to bring to life the story of one of the world’s most famous fictional horses. The production boasts the creative input of costume designer Hayley Neil, who has worked on and for, amongst others, Pussy Cat Dolls, Luc Besson, Walking with Dinosaurs, The Kings Speech and most recently the acclaimed Animal Farm production at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. This unique 2 ¼ hour production applies the technology and craft of modern theatre, whilst retaining the essential spirit of the original novel. The stage set has been carefully designed to incorporate the stunning backdrops and surroundings of the historical venues in which it will be performed.
Black Beauty was written in 1877 and was the only published novel of Anna Sewell who died 5 months after it was first printed. Although a favourite with children around the world, it was not written as a children’s book but as a tale to bring attention to the mistreatment of working horses at the time. This ground-breaking novel was the first to be written from an animal’s perspective and is recognised today as playing a key role in the launch of the Animal Welfare Movement. It has been adapted for film and television many times over the past century, but has never before been transformed into a live theatre show.
The new production concentrates on the core elements of the story, following Beauty’s close relationship with the Gordon family and, in particular, with Flora Gordon. Narrated by Black Beauty, the play covers his idyllic early life, through to his darkest days as a brutally treated London cab horse and his experiences working in the mines. Along the way he meets many equine friends from very different backgrounds who each tell their own poignant stories about life as a working horse in Victorian times, before he is eventually happily reunited with Flora.
The production is a visual feast with many stunning and carefully created scenes. Highlights include the famous race scene at Epsom, in which the audience take part, a dramatic mine explosion scene and a flashback tale from an old War horse remembering his time in the Crimean War. Neil’s highly unique and specially-created head costumes, combined with meticulous choreography and stage sets, enable the actors to truly inhabit their equine characters and for the first time bring the story to life theatrically.
Speaking about the tour, Producer Susannah Daley said: ”Black Beauty is a timeless story, which continues to sell and be taught in schools throughout the world. One of the biggest challenges in staging the production was how to bring the horses to life and also allow them to be them to be the central story. Modern design, technology, choreography and theatrical production techniques have enabled us to bring the story to a contemporary audience without losing the core essence of the book.”
UK TOUR DATES
July 7th Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire
July 14th Holker Hall, West Midlands
July 18th Ingatestone Hall, Essex
July 20/21st Althorp House, Northamptonshire
July 26th/27th Castle Howard, Yorkshire
July 31 Prideaux Place, Padstow, Cornwall
August 1st Prideaux Place, Padstow, Cornwall
August 4th/5th Avington Park, Hampshire
August 9th/10th Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire
August 12th Lulworth Castle, Dorset
August 16th Hagley Hall, West Midlands
August 18th/19th Scone Castle, Perth, Scotland
August 24th Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire
August 26th Harewood, Yorkshire
Prices: £10 for children, £15/£14.50 with concession, £18.95/£18.00/£16.50 for adults and £55/£50/£48 for family tickets.
Tickets available from : www.blackbeautylive.co.uk
Central Booking Number: 0844 871 7604
Castle Howard: www.castlehoward.co.uk Tel: 01653 648 333
Harewood House: www.harewood.org Tel: 0113 218 1010
Holker Hall: www.holker.co.uk Tel: 01539 558 328
Woburn Abbey: www.woburn.co.uk/theatre Tel: 01525 290 333