Crocodiles and Cream

When the advance info arrived on this event I was already aware of Kevin Moore’s play through other members of the society recommending it from previous productions elsewhere, so the chance to see it at Ripon in the magnificent surroundings of the cathedral there was too good to miss and I booked straight away! The performance itself was scheduled for the evening but ahead of that were eats at the Old Deanery and also a talk there, ‘Lewis Carroll’s Northern Wonderland’ by Maurice Taylor, Ripon’s local historian, so I booked for what was called the Connoisseurs’ package which started at the Old Deanery at 2.30 pm. Maurice and his wife Dorothy had made the arrangements for the event so we knew we were going to be in good hands.

The Old Deanery is right across the road from the cathedral and was an ideal place for Maurice’s talk as Lewis Carroll had often visited the house when it was occupied by Dean Erskine in the 1850’s. In his talk Maurice asked the audience to make up its own mind about the influence Ripon had had on Lewis Carroll’s works but he produced quite a convincing argument in his talk to persuade us that Lewis Carroll’s time in Ripon during the 1860’s had contributed many things to both ‘Alice’ stories ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ published in 1865 and ‘Through the Looking Glass’ published in 1872.

Immediately after Maurice’s talk we all trotted over to the cathedral where Brian Partridge’s ‘Alice’ art was on display (left) and we were given a lovely talk by Brian, who was in attendance. Brian told us about how the art work came about and mentioned that he had moved onto several other things after drawing ‘Alice’ but each time it came back to haunt him! He explained how he drew the black and white pictures on display and said that some were produced in minutes whereas others could be months in the making. Back in the Old Deanery we had tea of sandwiches and cakes before those who wished went to evensong and others chatted in the Old Deanery dining room.

At quarter to seven the main proceedings were preceded by Wine and eats in the cathedral library. The library contains some of the Royal portraits that Ripon Cathedral possesses and it was the perfect backdrop for the start of the evening.  Just after seven we took our seats in the nave of the cathedral ready for the performance and were given a short introduction by Maurice Taylor who mentioned also the new book on the stained glass windows in the cathedral. The Dean of Ripon, The Very Revd. Keith Jukes (right) also welcomed us to the cathedral.

The set was visible on a raised stage, an armchair, a large folding camera on a table and a wooden camera tripod and hat stand either side of the stage. The lights darkened and Kevin Moore took his place in the chair dressed as Lewis Carroll – when the lights came back on we could see that the representation was quite accurate when compared with known photographs of the author. The one man show started with Lewis Carroll’s poem Hiawatha which is about the tribulations of a Victorian photographer trying to take portraits of a family. It dealt with Lewis Carroll’s relationships with young ladies in a dignified way and how this came about via the camera, as Lewis Carroll was the major child photographer of the mid to late nineteenth century.  The portrait of him as a stammering Oxford don was not overly dwelt upon but neither was his cleverness brought out also so perhaps a balance was presented. The interval gave time to go and buy the book on the stained glass before we took our places once again for the conclusion of an enjoyable play and evening.

After the performance the mayor of Ripon, Councillor Andrew Williams, gave a short thank you speech to the actor, his technical man and to the arrangers of the event. The evening concluded with the Ripon horn blower coming down the cathedral aisle to blow the horn for the curfew and have this acknowledged by the Mayor.


Keith Wright 16th October 2012