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Award winning writer Sarah McDonald-Hughes has brought together a collection of local stories about the devastating effects of Storm Desmond on the Lancaster district and has formed them to create The Dukes’ flagship new play ‘Blackout’.
The play centres on December 2015 when Storm Desmond plunged 100,000 people in the areas of Lancaster, Morecambe and Carnforth into darkness, lasting four days for many. At the storm’s peak, 1,742 cubic metres of water per second flowed down the River Lune in Lancaster – the highest flow of any river ever recorded in England.
The play itself is inspired by testimony from residents, community organisations, emergency responders, sociologists and journalists who weathered the storm together. McDonald-Hughes has focused the play’s attention on the real-life experiences of a Lancaster business owner who saw her shop devastated by flood water, a young homeless woman from Morecambe wandering the streets during the blackout and a schoolboy who lost his most precious possession to Storm Desmond.
Blackout will also feature contributions from a fire officer, coastguard, an electricity company manager, and a Lancaster University academic who co-wrote a report on what was the first long duration power cut in Britain to affect thousands since becoming so internet dependent.
To add to Blackout’s true representation of North Lancashire, the play will be performed by a community cast, led by only two professional actors Christine Mackie and Peter Rylands- keeping to the ethos that Blackout is created with and performed by and for local people.
Performed in The Dukes’ renowned ‘Round Theatre’, the play will be directed by Alex Summers, who said “We have been deeply inspired by the resilience of those who shared their stories with us. I hope Blackout represents something of what makes Lancaster city district so special, being lovingly created and performed by its residents, whilst paying tribute to those affected most acutely.”
During the creative process, The Dukes engaged with people in some of the district’s most deprived areas – Marsh, Ridge, Ryelands, Vale, Harbour, Heysham North, Poulton, Skerton and Westgate – who will be offered specially discounted tickets to see the production.
Such a community-oriented achievement is set to make Blackout a must-watch. It is not often that a production with so much heart and importance is brought to your door step.
Blackout runs until Friday 3rd November at The Dukes. With the final performance coinciding with the first night of ‘Light Up Lancaster’- a festival of light and art which typically attracts thousands to the city.