Durham actress lands role playing national heroine Grace Darling

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ACTRESS Catherine Dryden is hoping to make waves when she steps into the shoes of a national heroine.

The 23-year-old from Durham is taking on the role of sea rescue heroine Grace Darling in a new play, Amazing Grace, based on her life.

North East writing duo Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood, who are behind stage hits Maggie’s End, Dirty Dusting and Waiting for Gateux, have penned the production which will tour the region this autumn.

It’s based on the true story of Northumberland’s Grace Darling, who, with her father in 1838, rescued nine people after their ship had struck the notorious Harcar rocks, a part of the Farne Islands.

Tragically Grace died of TB in 1842 aged only 26, four years after her heroic deed.

The playwrights, along with the show’s director Emma Roxburgh, faced a tough task finding an actress who could take on the role.

They auditioned 20 local actresses for the part and Catherine, a musical theatre graduate from the Newcastle College, shone through.

She said: “I am delighted to be selected for this prestigious piece of theatre, especially playing the role of Grace Darling. She’s a terrific character with a lot of fiery passion and determination.”

Catherine’s first appearance on stage was with Chester-Le-street Theatre Group when she was three. Her theatre credits include Don’t Quote Me at Northern Stage, The Birthday Blaze at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal and The Wind Road Boys at Sunderland Empire.

She added: “Ed and Trevor have a fantastic reputation in the region and nationally and the play is great. It’s a brilliant opportunity.”

Trevor said: “This is our ninth full play and we’ve been involved in dozens of productions of them but this was the most difficult casting decision we’ve had to make because all of the candidates were excellent, which shows the depth of acting talent we have in the region.

“The story is about a film company coming to Northumberland to make a movie about Grace Darling so we were looking specifically for someone who could not only play the historical Grace Darling but the modern character of Grace Armstrong, who is the lead actress in a film.

“Catherine fitted the role perfectly.”

The other cast members are Sean Widely, 30, whose previous work includes performing with the Northumberland Touring Company and Trevor Cuthbertson, 58, a native Geordie who appeared at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London, in Henry VIII.

Director Emma Roxburgh said: “We have a strong cast, a fantastic script and the show will be a must-see event in the region.”

The three-week north east tour of Amazing Grace will begin with a world premiere at Alnwick Playhouse on Wednesday, October 17.

Other dates include Gala Theatre, Durham, on October 24 and 25 and Customs House, South Shields, on October 29 and October 30.

Twitter: @sunechokaty

GRACE Darling was born in 1815 at Bamburgh in Northumberland and spent her youth in two lighthouses of which her father, William, was the keeper.

In the early hours of September 7 1838, Grace, looking from an upstairs window of the Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands, spotted the wreck and survivors of the Forfarshire on Big Harcar, a nearby low rocky island.

The Forfarshire had foundered on the rocks and broken in half: one of the halves had sunk during the night.

She and her father determined that the weather was too rough for the lifeboat to put out from Seahouses (then North Sunderland), so they took a rowing boat (a 21 ft, four-man Northumberland coble) across to the survivors, taking a long route that kept to the lee side of the islands, a distance of nearly a mile.

Grace kept the coble steady in the water while her father helped four men and the lone surviving woman, Mrs. Dawson, into the boat.

Although she survived the sinking, Mrs Dawson had lost her two young children during the night. William and three of the rescued men then rowed the boat back to the lighthouse. Grace then remained at the lighthouse while William and three of the rescued crew members rowed back and recovered the remaining survivors.