George Orwell in Cranham

On Saturday the 19th March, Eleanor and I attended the last evening of an amateur production of George Orwell in Cranham. A play written by a team of eight writers and overseen by the village archivist, who had decided two and a half years ago to write and perform a play about Orwell’s life, which included his time at Cranham Sanatorium. Sadly this T.B. hospital no longer exists, but the village is still very much aware of its existence and that Orwell had been treated there before moving onto UCH in London in the autumn of 1949. As an aside, Eleanor and I were also invited to have supper with the lady, who owns the house that I had spent 5 weeks during the summer of 1949, visiting my father. In those days it was owned by a Lillian Woolf, who was involved with anarchist movement and the Freedom press.

Back to the play, which was performed in a series of 12 short scenes, starting with Orwell lying on a stretcher, apparently dead after being wounded in the Spanish Civil War. From there we go back to his childhood and move through his life, ending with his time at the sanatorium and into the final three scenes of a dream sequence as his health deteriorates towards death.

The whole play was researched with meticulous care and the scenes acted out with surprising professionalism by the cast, who were all drawn from the village. This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and the cast were very appreciative of my visit as it gave them something to aim for. The hall was packed to capacity, about 120 people coming to see the play. For an amateur production, the villagers had worked extremely hard to get it right and it showed. A cracking good night out.

Richard Blair


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