Genteel Victorian village of Cranford goes on the road

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CRANFORD drew TV audiences running into the millions with its witty and poignant comedy of early Victorian life in a genteel English country market town.

A new stage version is looking for similar success.

After three dates before Christmas, it is now on the road again on a tour which brings it to Worthing’s Connaught Theatre, from Tuesday, February 1-Saturday, February 5 (7.30pm nightly, matinees Wednesday at 2pm and Saturday at 2.30pm).

Kirsten Cooke, best known for her role as Michelle in TV’s ‘Allo, ‘Allo, plays Miss Matty, the Judi Dench role - and is loving it.

“I think the English love a costume drama, and there is also the nostalgia. I think we are quite a nostalgic nation. Everybody likes to look back at a time and think it was much better and much rosier.”

The reality was, of course, rather different: “The fact is that if you were seriously unwell, your chances of survival would not have been great.”

And there was plenty of pathos in the characters themselves.

“My character had a man that was interested in her when she was younger, but he didn’t come up to scratch on the table manners side of things. Her parents wrote him off and said that he was out of the question. He dies during the course of the play - not that she has seen him very much since. But she is very much affected by it. She is destroyed by it, but she couldn’t show her emotions. That’s the thing that the Victorians were very good at, not showing their emotions. But it’s very sad. Her life could have been so different if she had been allowed to marry this man.

“The whole place revolves around widows and spinsters. They have not got much apart from their gossip. But the class system is breaking down at this point. There is a certain adjustment in people’s attitudes towards the social classes. It is the rise of the common man.

“There is also a financial side, how easily people were financially ruined. All these widows have only the money that their husbands or parents left them. They have got no real income. But they are a community. There is a loyalty. They give each other advice and they listen to each other and they try to make something out of the small things in life.”