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Jerusalem and jam inspired by tea and tarts.

Byline: Theatre Hilarie Stelfox

WITH her fourth play for the Marsdenbased Mikron Theatre, Huddersfield writer Maeve Larkin delves deep into the world of the Women's Institute to reveal a story of changing times and old friendships.

From tea-making to twerking, Raising Agents covers 100 years of WI activities, looks at how the organisation has grown and how it is now appealing to a new generation.

While Larkin and the company's artistic director Marianne McNamara visited WIs up and down the country to research the show, the main inspiration came from Marsden's own traditional village WI and the Huddersfield-based Tea & Tarts WI, one of the new, innovative branches.

Producer Peter Toon explains that the play focuses on the fictitious down-at-heel Bunnington WI, which has a close encounter with a PR guru who re-brands them the Bunnington Bunnies. The script, he says, is both light and fun, but has a certain amount of pathos.

"It starts with the roots of the WI," says Peter, "and how and why it was founded by Adelaide Hoodless at a meeting of the Farmers' Institute in Canada. The women who joined were from isolated places and could spend weeks on end without any adult company."

In celebrating the centenary of the WI in Britain, Mikron is continuing its mission to find new writers to tell uniquely British stories related to historical movements and organisations. Past productions in recent years (also written by Larkin) have looked at the Luddites and World War One - both from a local perspective.

Raising Agents examines the hoary issue of change and how much an organisation should embrace the new and throw out the old.

But, as Peter remarks: "The WI is a very dynamic, forward-thinking organisation and the wonderful thing about it is that there is place for everyone - except men, of course. "The show goes through periods in history and while it is educational we would say that it is fundamentally a great night out.

"The danger of saying something is educational is that people think it will be very dry, but there's a lot of fun in Raising Agents - we've even got twerking!" While this is Larkin's fourth consecutive year as a writer with Mikron, she will be returning to her original role of dramaturge (someone who acts as a consultant, advising on the research and development of theatrical works) and two new writers have been commissioned to produce forthcoming works for the touring company, whose entire artistic team live in the Colne Valley.

After the premiere of Raising Agents at the Lawrence Batley Theatre on Sunday, March 29, at 7pm, the play will be performed at the Legger's Inn, Dewsbury on March 31; Franco's in Almondbury on Wednesday, April 1, and at Stirley Community Farm on Sunday, April 5. A few tickets for the LBT show are still available, from PS6 to PS12. Call 01484 430528 or visit www.thelbt.org For details of the other Kirklees venues check out www.mikron.org.uk

very dry, but there's a lot of fun in Raising Agents - we've even got twerking!'

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Raising Agents from Mikron Theatre

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Mar 20, 2015
Words:518
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