Disappearance of Lewis Carroll statue is curioser and curioser

Frank Ditchburn and Michael Bute have written a book based on the theft of the Lewis Carol statue from Whitburn park.

Frank Ditchburn and Michael Bute have written a book based on the theft of the Lewis Carol statue from Whitburn park.

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MYSTERY surrounding a stolen Lewis Carroll statue gets curioser and curioser.

A bronze statue of the Victorian author was stolen from Cornthwaite Park in Whitburn in 1991, along with a figure of a little girl he was reading to.

Carroll’s figure was recovered, and today stands in Whitburn Library, but the girl remains lost.

Now, Sunderland’s Royalty Theatre will host the first reading of a new play, Alice in Thunderland, inspired by the theft.

The script is a collaboration between Michael Bute, late former Echo head of content Patrick Lavelle and Frank Ditchburn.

A fantasy piece, the play muddles together characters from Carroll’s Alice books with a highly-fictionalised version of the hunt for the statue and the thief.

Frank said: “I got a phone call from Patrick asking if I was interested in playing two parts in the play.

“He then sent me the draft script that he had co-written with Michael and said that it would need to be expanded to provide a full evening’s entertainment. I found myself volunteering to participate in the writing – which has been very stimulating, and great fun.”

Michael’s 1997 book, A Town Like Alice’s, explored Carroll’s links to the North East.

Michael also featured in the best-selling cartoon book Alice in Sunderland as a character talking to its author Bryan Talbot and also appears as a fictionalised version of himself in the play.

He said: “The play itself has ended up as a fairly low-brow piece, with plenty of knock-about comedy. The audience may also take away some facts about Carroll that they didn’t know before.”

Joint author Patrick Lavelle, who died last year, was a well-known award-winning investigative journalist and author.

Michael added: “This was one of Patrick’s pet projects, along with the film King of the North. Sadly, he died before seeing either come to fruition, but it is hoped that his son Tom will be able to be at the reading.”

Frank said: “It’s not quite Geordie Shore, but some of the humour is definitely a bit on the bawdy side, and the views expressed by some of the more chauvinistic characters, which are not shared by the play’s authors, may cause offence to feminists – so it’s only fair to warn people to stay away if easily offended.”

Plans for a stage production of the play are still up in the air, and will depend in part on public response at the reading.

l The reading is on Saturday, July 16, at 7.30pm. The event is free.

Twitter: @SunechoKaty