The cast, from left, Ben Pearson, Ian Kirkbride, Rhonda Hart-Davis, Janie Caldbeck and Andy Moorhouse
The cast, from left, Ben Pearson, Ian Kirkbride, Rhonda Hart-Davis, Janie Caldbeck and Andy Moorhouse

THE Castle Players are mid-way through their annual tour around Teesdale and beyond.

This year bringing the winter cheer with These Things Do Happen, written by Stewart Howson as part of his Country Voices cycle of plays about life on the land featuring the lives of ordinary people.

Many of the audience will feel an instant familiarity with the story, set in the 1930s and 1940s in the rural North East, focusing on the changes as mechanisation is welcomed by some, but not by others, the Second World War and the need to use Land Girls on the farms.

The central character of the show is ‘Florrie’ a Fordson N Type tractor, that is wonderfully brought to life by Ben Pearson with just a few simple props, including a drainpipe and a drip tray can hanging in just the right place to catch any oil leaks.

His characterisation was incredible. I completely believed he was the tractor sharing its thoughts as the farmers talked around him.

Bob (Peter Cockerill), after inheriting some money, bought Florrie to try to update the family’s farming methods.

Peter’s facial expressions were delightful, perfectly showing a range of emotion including the ups and downs of using Florrie on the farm, the death of a family member and the excitement of going on a date.

Carntbe (Ian Kirkbride), the grouchy farm-hand, finds it difficult to cope with the changes of a tractor. Ian threw himself into his part, literally and played it with perfection.

Bob’s mother, Mrs Parkin (Sue Byrne) was one of my highlights of the evening, as she focused on her late husband George (Andy Moorhouse).

She brings out her magpie-box and relives a collection of memories, creating humour and poignancy. Sue has taken this opportunity brilliantly to show what an excellent actress she is.

Land girl Edith (Janie Caldbeck) took her character superbly from the naivety of being tricked and learning new skills, to being a resilient yet tender farm worker.

Andy Moorhouse played a range of parts throughout, showing how versatile an actor he is.

We may be missing the large scale summer productions at The Bowes Museum, but The Castle Players are still as creatively sublime as ever.

For more details about the tour and for information about the group, see

Andrew Harrison

n These Things Do Happen, directed by Gordon Duffy-McGhie, is at The Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, on February 16; Gainford Village Hall on February 18; St Mary’s Parish Hall, Barnard Castle on February 24; and Romaldkirk Village Hall on February 25. Tickets from venues or see the website