A kaleidoscopic and unique insight into Sussex at the turn of the century comes to the White Rock Theatre on Wednesday evening in the form of The Four Men, adapted from the book by Hilaire Belloc by Ann Feloy.
The play follows Belloc as he adventures on foot across the county with three extraordinary companions at the mystical time of Halloween.
Together they travel 92 miles over the course of four days and drink 300 pints of beer. They quarrel, laugh and sing as they recount the legends of the Downs, speak of their first loves and meet remarkable characters along the way.
Ann said of adapting The Four Men: “It would be a mistake to think it easier to adapt a book for stage than to write a play from scratch.
To write an adaptation is to continually have the author looking over your shoulder and, in the case of The Four Men, Hilaire Belloc is a huge presence to sense sitting in an armchair in the corner of the room, drinking port and considering your every line.
Belloc said of The Four Men – “I put my whole heart into that book but no one cares about it”. No pressure there, then. Knowing that didn’t make the task any easier but it did spur me on to write the adaptation. How could anyone put their heart and soul into something which was then left unread and forgotten? Furthermore, having read the book and delighting in it, I wanted others to read it. As the book is out of print, I felt a stage play would help bring it to a wider audience and I hope this has been the case since it was first performed in 2009.”
She said: “Finally, I have a sneaking feeling that Belloc wrote this half intending, one day, for it to be performed. The dialogue of the four main characters is set out a little like a stage play and, although Belloc never said so, it may have crossed his mind that it could be performed by actors on a stage. Of course, a great deal has to be imagined, for the whole book is steeped in the beauty of the Sussex countryside in Edwardian England at the time of Halloween. However, I hope this adaptation allows Belloc’s words to transcend the confines of the theatre and take the audience on a captivating journey that touches the soul, as I believe he intended.” Tickets from £18.