The Brutish Multitude is a Theatre Company that was formed in early 2018 in the ancient village of Heptonstall, West Yorkshire, initially to research and produce a community play based upon the 1643 English Civil War battle, the Battle of Heptonstall. Our longer-term mission is to make drama out of the social history of the Calder Valley, performing plays in non-theatre spaces and theatres, using both professional performers and members of the community.
A successful bid to Sky Arts funded the Battle of Heptonstall project. Two local artists were commissioned: writer and director Michael Crowley and composer Katie Chatburn. A public launch was held in September 2018 and for two nights a week for the next two months, Michael brought new scenes along each week which the group read around a table. Characters developed with those that read for them, new characters were created for newcomers, and by the final page there was cast of sixteen.
There were four performances of the play – three at St Thomas the Apostle church Heptonstall and one at Halifax Minster. The play was warmly received with all four shows selling out. The narrative was supported by Katie Chatburn’s music – inspired by characters, setting and time. New music was composed for period ballads as well bespoke ballads for the play. The majority of the cast had no prior experience of acting or singing publicly and the rehearsal process was an ascent over a long period of time creating fine performances. A story about some ordinary people of 1643 told to us by ordinary people of today. There is promotional film about the play and the battle itself here
The production created the company as much as the company the production, and we hope to take a new piece of theatre into non-theatre spaces and theatre spaces in 2021, once COVID has passed.
The Battle of Heptonstall performances were proceeded by a lecture on the 1643 battle held at Hebden Bridge Town Hall. In November of 2019 there was an exhibition about the civil war history and the community play in the foyer and cafe of the Town Hall, with photographs by our associate artist Bruce Cutts.
“I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he; and therefore truly, Sir, I think it’s clear, that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.” Colonel Sir Thomas Rainsborough, Leveller and MP for Droitwich, The Putney Debates 1647