Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Brush off your bustle and buckle up your bonnets
There are similarities to be drawn between Elizabeth Gaskell and Jane Austen. Both were women writers at a time when women were not expected to do much beyond run the household staff, embroidery, play the fortepiano and sing a little.
Mr Hoggins (Graham Miles) is the only eligible bachelor in Cranford, much to the delight of Lady Glenmire (Heidi Davies), Miss Pole (Veronica Fourie) and Miss Barker (Di Graham). (Photo courtesy of Garrick Theatre)
Both were the daughters of pastors, both wrote about the society they knew well and their novels are accurate reflections of the social milieu in which they moved.
There are differences, however. Jane Austen, who died in 1817, published anonymously and didn't want to be known as an author, whereas Elizabeth Gaskell, who was only seven years old when Jane died, was proud of being an author and published prolifically - a reflection of the changing times.
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, née Stevenson (1810 – 1865) (Photo in the public domain)
Mrs Gaskell spent her early life living with an aunt and grandparents in Knutsford, which times and place she later wrote about thinly disguised as Cranford.
Cranford, published in 1851 as a serial, is a nostalgic look back at times already then well past and is a gentle, affectionate look at the the then village and the stir caused by the arrival of a mysterious man.
Kerry Goode (Miss Matty Jenkyns), Veronica Fourie (Miss Pole), Susan Vincent (Mrs Jamieson) and Di Graham (Miss Barker) are appearing in Cranford at Garrick Theatre (Photo courtesy of Garrick Theatre)
The play Cranford was adapted by Martyn Coleman, and is now being produced at Garrick Theatre in Guildford by veteran director, Ailsa Travers who had this to say about it; "It's set after the Napoleonic wars when women were in the majority. This show has the advantage of being funny as well as pretty to look at. This one appealed because I have directed many period plays and it had many parts for women."
Set in the 1830s, the play has been described as a "witty comedy of manners" and made into a 2007 BBC television series featuring Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins and Michael Gambon.
Young love blossoms in Cranford between Martha (Ellie Bawden) and Jem Hearn (Ethan Acott) (Photo courtesy of Garrick Theatre)
Travers has put together a splendid cast of community theatre stalwarts, actors such as Kerry Goode, Veronica Fourie, Susan Vincent, Di graham and Rosemary Mowbray, whom we have all seen many times.
This delightful play promises to be great fun.
Cranford plays at 8pm, July 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 with 2pm matinees on July 13 and 20.
Tickets are $20, $17 concession, $15 children – book on 9378 1990 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Garrick Theatre is at 16 Meadow Street, Guildford, opposite the Stirling Arms Hotel and Guildford Town Hall.