A new community musical production, The Heart of the Wood, proved a sell out success when it made its long-awaited debut in Barnsley.
The show featured four young actors from the local area, who shared the roles of Jake and Megan, a brother and sister who travel back in time to the ancient forest where the coal their grandfather mined was formed.
They were joined on stage at the Dearne Playhouse in Goldthorpe by dozens of musicians, dancers and singers from across Barnsley, including Barnsley Metropolitan Band, Thurnscoe Harmonic Male Voice Choir, Barnburgh Village Singers, four school choirs and talented dancers from the Kim Frost School of Dance.
Youngsters Joe Easton and Quinn Plews shared the role of Jake, while Maisie Boyd and Kira Powell portrayed Jake’s sister Megan, former miner Jeff Riley had the part of the mysterious Rabbit and experienced actor Tim Rutherford played Granddad.
Against the backdrop of songs written specially for the show, the children embark on an underground adventure, braving mutant rats and a rampaging T-Rex.
More than 900 people packed into the Playhouse last weekend for three performances of the musical – and munched on 400 jammy dodgers, Jake’s favourite snack.
The production was created by The Big Reveal, a performing arts charity, and supported by Barnsley Council.
The play, funded by the UK Government’s Towns Fund through the Goldthorpe Town Deal Board, and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, was part of a wider project to celebrate and protect the heritage and culture of the Dearne area, which includes the renovation of the Playhouse.
Matthew Stephens, who chairs the Goldthorpe Town Deal Board, said: “Heart of the Wood has been absolutely inspirational, the whole cast were just fantastic. Next stop: the West End.
"To see such talent coming from our local area was something the whole community can feel very proud of.
"I was really pleased to see the Playhouse so full for all three performances.
“The Dearne Playhouse is an important piece of Goldthorpe’s cultural identity and I’m delighted we’re able to invest in its future through the Goldthorpe Town Deal Board.”
Writer and playwright Martin Riley worked with children at Lacewood, Heather Garth, The Hill and Goldthorpe primary schools – whose choirs featured in the show - to produce more than 200 imaginative stories inspired by The Heart of the Wood.
Improvements are being made to the Playhouse through Towns Fund investment, and the theatre has already benefitted from roofing repairs, as well as upgraded audio and visual equipment, which was used to project children’s artwork onto the stage backdrop during the show.
The next phase of work includes further refurbishment to the main auditorium and entrance, while the Playhouse’s basement will be transformed into a community hub complete with a music rehearsal space.
The neighbouring Welfare Park will benefit from new seating, artwork and additional parking.
It is all part of the wider enhancement of Goldthorpe under the Goldthorpe Town Deal.
This has already seen the creation and opening of the new market square and public events space, Horse and Groom Square.
To find out more about ongoing and future projects to improve Goldthorpe, visit barnsley.gov.uk/goldthorpe.
Our photo shows actors (from left) Maisie Boyd, Jake Easton and Jeff Riley.