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This original play by The Rudes was toured briefly in 2012 mainly to arts centres and a few village halls, so most of you will not have seen it, but it was extremely well received both in the press and by our supporters, so we thought it would be good to get it out again. Originally, it was written for three actors and six puppets, but we have re-written it for six actors and have added lots of music with some great new songs. We think you are going to like it. 


It is variously both an hilarious comedy, but equally provocative, poetic and tender. It is set in the late 18th Century in Tunbridge Wells but 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…


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. 

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