The Dressing Book - An original outdoor play

Egerton Park, 45 Egerton Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, TN39 3HN
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The Dressing Book - An original outdoor play

About

The Rude Mechanical Theatre Company, or just The Rudes, create brand-new plays and tour outdoors to mainly small rural communities and a few towns right across the South of England from Kent to Somerset and will be visiting Bexhill again this summer with another original play, The Dressing Book. It is variously both an hilarious comedy, but equally provocative, poetic and tender. Set in 1795 in Tunbridge Wells, it plays games with time and social status and has a twist in the tail. It follows the 'social round' of Maybelline Erstwhile who records which dresses she wears for each event in her 'dressing book' - and the men she encounters while wearing them. The play opens a window on the way clothes were – and still are - a means by which men could control the separated public and private worlds of women. Has anything changed? Through a process of 'magic realism' the action changes to the 1960's and Maybelline's clothes, which had been her prison, now set her free.

Put your feet up, have a cup of coffee and a snack, because here's a first taste of…

The story

Mrs Erstwhile, Maybelline to her intimates, has a dilemma. The wife, now widow, of Sir John Rump MP, known to virtually no intimates (because she had none) as Augusta, was bounding up the path in her durable bombazine widow's weeds (with a hint of sunlight), quite visibly without a calling card!

There had been a tiff. Indeed a spat concerning a gown, examples of which both women had worn to The Pantiles Annual Ball in Tunbridge Wells - a damask robe à la française with sleeves finished in a ruffle of dimity and fine English net lace. Allegedly bespoke by Greenfield and Tuck, no less, of Oxford Street! Bespoke indeed!

Mrs Rump was furious! - Who wouldn't be? - And would have made the point that very night but for the fact that Sir John had been shot through the heart in a duel with his mistress's husband. Quite snookered in fact! Distracted by the obsequies her rage had been bottled up, but now 'dear Jack' was safely in the ground she was about to explode like Vesuvius itself at Maybelline's very door.

But Maybelline would not give up her claim to the gown lightly because that night she had met Edward, Mr Ashby, that is, a doctor from Sevenoaks, and the trace of his presence still lingered on its sleeve where he had daringly touched her arm. She had carefully recorded the facts in her dressing book, where she chronicled in her tiny elegant hand all her encounters - and the gowns that she had worn. The impossible possibilities. The pathways always not quite crossing. Thwarted by social obligation, or time, or geography.

"In turn hilarious, touching & provocative, the play shows how social expectation, especially relating to how women should look, both in their body shape and their clothes, is still as relevant today as it was in 1795."

TICKETS – are available now on our website – www.therudes.co.uk

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Opening Times

Season (16 June 2024)
DayTimes
Sunday19:30 - 22:00

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