New play inspired by Peak District

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A new play by Carnegie Award-winning author Berlie Doherty, Thin Air, tours to both Shoreham and Guildford.

Cotton Grass Theatre present the supernatural story of a First World War fighter pilot who returns home from the horrors of the war. He is in possession of a secret that will haunt his community for generations to come.

Set in the Dark Peak of Derbyshire, the play is inspired by the landscape, heritage and mythology of the Peak.

In the last century, the Peak District became synonymous with aircraft engineering. Rolls Royce was at Derby, and the wartime Dambuster practice flights flew over Ladybower reservoir. There remain many aircraft wrecks to be found on the forbidding slopes of Kinder Scout.

As playwright Berlie explains, this rich history is captured in the words and action of the play.

“Cotton Grass Theatre commissioned me to write a ghost play set in Derbyshire, where they and I are based. We talked about the many haunted houses and the various legends about ghosts in the county, but felt it would be exciting to write something completely original.

“I live in the dark peak, just below the brooding Kinder plateau, and I became interested in the many rumours and factual evidence of plane crashes in the area. I visited the site of one and was moved to discover that so much remains after sixty years that it has become a place of pilgrimage and reflection.

“It is easy to imagine how a plane could get lost up there on the high moors. Often when planes fly along our valley, a trick of light or a swirl of curtaining mist will make them appear to fly right into the side of the mountain. I have seen this myself many times and have caught my breath in disbelief.

“Not far away, over the Pennines in Manchester, AV Roe was designing and building aeroplanes at the beginning of the 20th century. I went to see a replica of his famous Avro triplane in the Manchester Museum of Science and Technology and there it was, waiting for me – the inspiration for my play!

“It is a dragonfly of a plane, beautiful and terrifyingly fragile. How could anyone dare to fly in it, so exposed to the elements? It had a range of only half a mile – but my play is fiction, and the pilot of my story may or may not have been alive, after all.”

Thin Air is at the Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham, on February 9 and at the Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, on February 10-11.