Rehearsals are well underway, lines are being learned, costumes are being made and tickets for this year’s seventh Dorchester Community Play go on sale on Monday, February 10.

Spinning the Moon is being staged for 11 nights between April 6 and April 18 at Thomas Hardye School theatre in Dorchester, though there will be no performances on Good Friday or Easter Sunday.

It will be a promenade performance within the theatre space so audience tickets are standing only.

Written by professional playwright Stephanie Dale, the two-hour play set in the turbulent years immediately after The Wars of the Roses, when society was changing and people were facing an uncertain future.

Like Shakespeare’s history plays, it focuses on a specific period and blends reality with fiction, comedy with dark drama.

The play features the wealthy, quarrelsome Trenchard family of Wolfeton House near Dorchester, their servants, nearby villagers, monks from Abbotsbury, a group of ‘cunning’ or wise women and the Spanish queen Joanna the Mad, who is shipwrecked nearby with her family and entourage.

Events ebb and flow as the Trenchards act on the ill-given advice of a monk and their community starts to fracture. Can a peaceful resolution be found?

It has taken years for the play to be ready for the stage, with tens of thousands of pounds raised – much of it via Art Council grants and generous donations and sponsorships from local businesses and organisations – and hours of dedicated planning by the Dorchester Community Plays Association board of directors.

Although the play’s writer, Stephanie Dale and director Peter Cann arewell-known professionals, the cast of 150 are all enthusiastic amateurs of all ages and abilities keen to take part in this huge cultural community undertaking.

Other professionals are assistant director Penny Levick and well-known local performer Tim Laycock as musical director. The wardrobe supervisor is Gillian Spencer-Gulliford, Dawn Alsopp has created the set and costume designs and Jenny Savage is the play officer.

Stephanie started writing the play in 015 and has worked it through several incarnations to where it is today. Along the way she has needed to increase the number of performers from 80 to almost 150 because the auditions were so popular!

She said: “I started by creating the world of the play – ad I can’t believe I started it in 2015!

“Then came the people and then more detail to put flesh on the bones. The challenge with the final writing was adding enough people to make sure that everyone who came to casting has a par. Even if they only have a couple of lines, their presence will still have a massive effect on the finished project.”

This is the first time Peter Cann, who has worked on community plays in the UK, Portugal and Jamaica, has been involved with a Dorchester production and he is thrilled by what he has seen so far.

He said: “Spinning the Moon is going to be great. Most communities only manage one play, but Dorchester has developed this rich tradition, which is amazing to see.

“People are committed and they work so hard behind the scenes on getting people interested and finding the money. That is the tough part and it’s mainly been done, so now we are at the fun part of actually doing the play.”

He added: “While the play is rehearsed and staged, the people taking part become a community in themselves. They will have fun, but they will also be stretched and do things they never thought they would be able to do.”

*Spinning the Moon will be staged at Thomas Hardye School from April 6-19, starting at 7.30pm, with no performances on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Ticket prices are £16 plus concessions and family tickets plus extra concessions on Monday 6, Tuesday 7, Monday 13 & Tuesday 14 April ONLY. They are available from

Dorchester Arts Centre in the Corn Exchange, High West Street, Dorchester. Call 01305 266926 or visit

If you have specific accessibility requirements (such as mobility, audio or visual needs), please contact the arts centre in advance.