The Priory opens at the Market Theatre this week as part of the 2021 Hitchin Festival

Molly Horne and Luci Fish star in historical drama The Priory at the Market Theatre in Hitchin.

Molly Horne and Luci Fish star in historical drama The Priory at the Market Theatre in Hitchin. - Credit: Market Theatre

The Market Theatre's latest drama, The Priory, opens this week as part of the Hitchin Festival 2021.

The Sun Street venue is fighting on despite the delay in relaxing all COVID restrictions and opens its second performance of the season on Thursday, July 1 to a socially distanced audience.

An historical drama set in Hitchin in 1558, The Priory has been written and produced as part of the Hitchin Festival, a month-long celebration of arts and culture that takes place every year throughout the month of July.

The Priory was original scheduled for July 2020, but like all things last year, it was postponed while the theatre remained closed.

So, the show has been over a year in the making and the venue is delighted to finally be able to get it up and running. It plays until Saturday, July 31.

The Priory features two Hertfordshire-based actors, Luci Fish and Molly Horne, stepping into the roles of Elizabeth Rayment, a cook, and kitchen maid Alice Mace.

Set at the Priory, which during the time was a convent building, it focuses on the relationship of the two characters against the background of the dissolution of the monasteries and the forced transference of the Priory and convent buildings to Sir Edward Watson.

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Seven years later it would become the family home of the Radcliffe family and start to resemble the place we know of today.

Writer and artistic director Kirk Foster explained: “As always with our historical dramas set in Hitchin, and this will be the ninth, we try to set our story against real locations and involve real local people and places where we can.

"The central characters and their story are fictional, however what they are going through was known to be common at the time.”

He continued: “We hope this will prove entertaining and also educational to those with an interest in local history."

The Market Theatre is, like all arts venues, hoping that from July 19 government restrictions will ease and they will be able to reach full capacity once again. Until then, creatives are carrying on with social distancing in place.

Theatre manager Glyn Doggett said: “Many theatres have still not opened their doors because they can’t afford to.

"We are fortunate to have only small casts in our shows and a small team of staff, so our overheads relatively are low.

"That is not to say we are not struggling, but we couldn’t remain closed any longer and it has been encouraging to see people return to us over the past few months and express how grateful they are to be back watching live entertainment.”

As well as the theatre shows, the Hitchin venue is also running live music nights, featuring a variety of local musicians each Friday and Saturday.

This is scheduled to run all the way through the summer and, hopefully, into the autumn.

The nights are free to attend, and bars are open from 8pm, although advance table booking is advisable.

For more details and to book tickets for shows and tables for the bars, visit www.markettheatre.co.uk

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