The amazing story of Amazing Grace

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THE story of North East sea rescue heroine Grace Darling is to be brought to the stage by two of the region’s top playwrights.

Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood, whose stage hits include Dirty Dusting, Waiting For Gateaux, Maggie’s End and Son of Samurai, have penned Amazing Grace to celebrate the achievements of the Victorian female heroine.

The play will tell the story of Grace Darling through the eyes of a modern-day writer called Grace, who wants to make a film about her famous namesake.

Former Sunderland Polytechnic student Trevor Wood explained: “It’s a funny, modern take on a wonderful story and will appeal to everyone aged from 13 to 113. We want to celebrate Grace’s achievement whilst illustrating how the Hollywood machine can play fast and loose with the facts.

“Grace was the first working-class female celebrity – the Cheryl Cole of her time – and the play is a tribute to her achievement.”

Amazing Grace will include film of some famous Northumberland landmarks and is being co-produced by Alnwick Playhouse with the support of Sunderland University.

Jo Potts, manager of Alnwick Playhouse, said: “Alnwick Playhouse is excited to premiere this new play based on and around Grace Darling.

“Her unique story is rooted firmly in the Northumberland landscape and deserves to be told.”

Judith Hills, associate dean in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at Sunderland University, said: “We are very excited to be involved in Amazing Grace. It’s a novel approach to a fantastic story which I’m sure will make a terrific piece of theatre.

“Our staff who teach in arts, design and media programmes are always looking for this kind of opportunity for their students to link to the industry and to work in professional contexts.”

The three-week North East tour will begin with a world premiere at Alnwick Playhouse on Wednesday, October 17.

It will also play Gala Theatre Durham on October 24 and 25, Tel. 332 4041, and Customs House, South Shields, on October 29 and 30, Tel. 454 1234.

l GRACE died in 1842 aged only 26, four years after her heroic deed off the Northumberland Coast between Bamburgh and Seahouses.

She and her lighthouse keeper father lived on Longstone Island when, in a storm on September 7, 1838, the SS Forfarshire struck the notorious Harcar rocks, a part of the Farne Islands.

Of the 63 people on board, nine managed to escape in the lifeboat while Grace and her father selflessly manned a coble to heroically rescue nine people stranded on the rocks.

Queen Victoria sent £50 for Grace which was administrated by the Duke of Northumberland and three bravery medals were bestowed on her by Humane Societies and the RNLI.

After Victoria, Grace became the most well-know woman in 19th century Britain.