We Will Be Free! The Tolpuddle Martyrs Story

We Will Be Free is an historical tale beginning in 1834 and is based on the true story of George and Betsy Loveless, prominent members of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. George was the leader of a group of six Dorset labourers who fought local landowners for better pay and working conditions. The union of labourers were denied their requests and sent to Australia in exile. This is clearly an important and worthy story but We Will Be Free makes little attempt at reflecting the power and passion behind the tale. Instead the audience is subjected to a pantomime based on folk theatre that raises very few laughs and feels like a second rate 'Carry On’ film.

The dynamic connection of Elizabeth Eves and Neil Gore on stage is the highlight of the piece. They slip into a variety of characters and have the ability to interact with each other with grace and poignancy. This, however, is not enough to carry the lack of humour in the performance, along with misjudged visuals. Projections depict illustrations of individuals and the locations that George and Betsy encounter; however, the inside of the courtroom does not feel intimidating and the tyranny of the government is not expressed in the slightest.

Flyers and promotional material for the performance state that We Will Be Free is augmented with 'powerful political cartoons and animation'. The talents of illustrator Andy Vine are obvious but there is absolutely no animation whatsoever in the performance and maybe this could have added to the humour and improved the experience.

Overall, the cast sets up We Will Be Free as a comedy with serious undertones but the performance is not witty enough to sustain a full seventy minute performance. It is important to mention the music direction from John Kirkpatrick, since the folk songs give We Will Be Free some heart and actually remind us of the hard struggle and turmoil experienced by George and Betsy Loveless.

Reviews by Steven Fraser

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Performances

The Blurb

New drama about the Dorset farm labourers convicted and transported for forming a trade union in 1834. Powerful storytelling theatre, puppetry and animation with musical arrangements from revered folk artist John Kirkpatrick.

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