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‘Where there’s muck, there’s bras’: Ladies That Dig comes to Lancaster

A female-led comedy drama about the great outdoors comes to the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster next year.

Ladies That Dig is a new comedy drama with original music about the great outdoors and the people who enjoy it. It’s about friendship and green fingers, isolation and community, nature, nurture and ultimately what it means to ‘grow’.

The show is a blend of live music and inter-twining tales from women who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Collected from interviews, the play is based on true life stories from Allotmenteers, Metal Detectorists, Archaeologists, Grave Diggers, Forensic Anthropologists and people who just love to garden. Ladies That Dig uncovers stories where budding love blossoms, hidden roots are unearthed, buried secrets revealed and golden treasures discovered.

The company includes actor and composer Helen Longworth (Hannah Riley in Radio 4’s The Archers); director Kirstie Davis (Robin Hood, The Dukes, Lancaster); writer and actor Joyce Branagh (Boomtown Gals – winner Best Performance at Manchester Theatre awards); actor Lisa Howard (House With Chicken Legs, Les Enfants Terribles and HOME Mcr); and actor Riana Duce (Dracula: The Untold Story, imitating the dog and Leeds Playhouse).

The play will be on at The Dukes between February 9-11.

Director Kirstie Davis said: “We were on Zoom during the pandemic and realised that everyone was finding the outside spaces in their lives more and more important – this sudden focus on being in nature and gardening made us want to explore the topic more”

Actor, Lisa Howard added: “Gardening and being outdoors are two of my favourite things. I find the act of sowing, tending and nurturing plants calming and full of hope, except when they die or some pest eats them all!. There's nothing quite like eating the produce of your own hard work and care.”

Kirstie continues: “Originally we met with allotmenteers and gardeners and then it expanded to include archaeologists and metal detectorists. In fact, since we first met them, one of the detectorists we interviewed has since made a huge find of international significance, which will now be in the play!”

Actor Riana Duce says: “What started as a conversation about how the great outdoors has saved us all these past couple of years, turned into a much deeper look at legacy and what we leave behind via the many ways a person can “dig.” I’m so excited to share the thoughts of all the brilliant people we met with our audiences!”

Writer Joyce Branagh says that “the process of writing the play has been about gathering all the interviews, mashing it all together and telling a fictional story which, although it starts with literal ‘digging,’ is about all the other things these wonderful people told us – love and loss and family, and friendship – and (I hope), all that has come together into this funny, moving, life-affirming piece of theatre.”

Composer Helen Longworth has been tasked with creating the music for the piece.

She says: “From the stories we heard, some everyday and some extraordinary, we have created an interwoven piece which moves through time and finds commonality between women of really varied types and backgrounds. As composer I have been so excited to create music out of these real stories and had no idea until we had gathered the stories, what the style of the music would be.

‘’The style has been completely dictated by real people and my response to what they have shared with us. I am especially excited to work with a hugely talented team of creatives to bring this play to life and then tour it back to the people who helped us create it.”

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