A HISTORIC tale of bravery and defiance will be played out among the ruins of Dorchester’s Roman Town House this month.

The Lark is the story of Joan of Arc and is proving to be a lavish, but demanding, production for Dorchester Drama Club to undertake.

The actor at the centre of the play, Lorna Moss, has been working through her A-levels at the same time as attending rehearsals and learning her lines, and the rest of the cast have been occasionally laid low by the usual work commitments and seasonal illnesses.

But director Trevor Williams, who also plays the part of the Earl of Warwick, is determined that this will be a memorable production – even though it does stop short of seeing Joan burned at the stake.

This is the second time that Trevor has appeared as Warwick in a production of the play, which was written in 1952 by Jean Anouilh. His first experience was in the early 1960s when he was studying the text at school.

The play covers the trial, condemnation and execution of Joan, but has an unusual ending in that a she recounts certain episodes in her life, her inquisitors suddenly realise she has one last thing left to see.

But will they grant her a stay of execution to see this come to pass?

As well as Joan, played by Lorna, and Warwick, the other main characters are Charles the dauphin, Cauchon the bishop, Ladvenu the friar, Beaudricourt the squire.

Cast members include Lee Stroud, Jack Moss, Ann Ottoway, Laura Smith, Tina Rutherford, Anne and David Reeve, John Ramsden, Sam Kelly, Georgie Willis, David Lucas and Tom Horsington.

Trevor said: “I am pleased with the way it is coming together and we have as strong a cast as we possibly could for the production.

“I did the play when I was at school, playing the Earl of Warwick, and it is interesting because how I remember it back then in 1961 is different to now. I was quite surprised when I re-read it because I didn’t remember him being the same as he seems now.”

“I decided it would be a good play to do as an outdoor production because of the way it is set, which is a play within a play within a play. It takes place at Joan’s trial, but parts of her life are played out on stage in little vignettes, such as her relationship with her family.

“We are also having a great deal of fun getting the French pronunciation of names right.”

In the first half of the play, she is in charge of the French Army, but after that we see the Bishop and his friar doing their best to save Joan from herself and the stake.

Warwick, as played by Trevor, is in France representing the King and his concerns are that if Joan is killed, she will be made into a martyr.

Trevor said: “Cauchon and Ladvenu didn’t want to see her convicted of heresy or condemned for witchcraft. The Spanish Inquisition was also there and they were more concerned with seeing her punished for her crimes against the Church. So the second half of the play is the battle to save her from herself.”

Trevor said he is delighted with the way Lorna has taken to the role of Joan. They have worked well together on earlier Dorchester Drama productions – as Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island and as Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas carol.

“She is absolutely superb,” he said. “It is as big a role as you could expect someone to take at her age and it couldn’t be more challenging, but she has risen to it brilliantly.”

Now all the cast and crew needs is good weather fort he run of the play – and Trevor is hoping there will be some dramatic sunsets to top things off.

He said: “We are planning to builkd a pyre at the side of the stage which we will light and if we get a gorgeous red sky, like when we did Julius Caesar, it will just be tremendous.”

The Lark is at Dorchester’s Roman Town House from Thursday to Saturday, July 7 to 9 at 7.30pm. Audiences are encouraged to bring a picnic and enjoy the wonderful surroundings. Tickets are available at Words Etcetera, Cornhall or by phone on 01305 257694.