The Fossil Lady of Lyme in Yarcombe and Axmouth

PUBLISHED: 18:30 21 January 2016

The Fossil Lady of Lyme - Alison Neil is presenting the one-woman show.

The Fossil Lady of Lyme - Alison Neil is presenting the one-woman show.

Archant

What landmark achievements did you pull off by the age of 12?

Perhaps you took home your first paper round wage packet, or reached grade two on recorder?

Mary Anning, at the tender age of 12, discovered the first complete fossil of a prehistoric reptile in Great Britain. Not bad for one of ten children, undereducated, and living in a house regularly flooded by storms.

It’s the story of this remarkable and lesser-known Victorian palaeontologist that struck a chord with actress Alison Neil, and inspired her latest one woman show, The Fossil Lady of Lyme.

“Imagine everything was created in six days…This was the England into which Mary Anning was born – just two hundred years ago. But with the discovery of fossils on the Jurassic Coast, the accepted truths about the world were blown apart; it became clear that there had been a vast prehistoric age, with unimaginable monsters roaming the earth and swimming in the seas.”

Neil’s vivid play, which tells the personal story behind Mary Anning’s world-changing discoveries, will be performed in village halls across Devon for Villages in Action (ViA).

Neil has made a life’s work of creating captivating one-woman plays about the formidable women forgotten or misrepresented by history.

Neil has transformed herself into Katherine Parr (the only wife to survive Henry VIII), Charlotte Bronte and Richmal Crompton (prolific authoress of the Just William series).

“There’s an endless supply of extraordinary women from history. If they inspire me, and excite me, I know they will do the same for an audience.”

Neil’s productions contain sumptuous period detail and are designed to travel. They provide mesmerizing entertainment however humble the venue.

“Once my whole set fell down during a performance. I carried on, merely stepping over the wreckage. Afterwards I apologised to a member of the audience who said, ‘Oh, I didn’t notice’.”

Mary Anning, the Fossil Lady of Lyme, had an exceptional life story. As a baby she survived a lightning bolt that killed three women. She escaped drowning by climbing out through a bedroom window when storms flooded her Dorset coastal home and nearly died in a landslide.

Neil gives credit to Villages in Action (ViA) for helping to sustain the vibrancy of rural cultural life.

“Villages are often wonderful communities, but can perhaps become insular unless outside influences are introduced. Live performances have an invigorating effect in many ways - their content, the strangeness of the performers, bringing villagers together in a new way, and of course the immense effort from the volunteers that host the event. I have returned to villages where they are, apparently, still talking about a show I performed many years before.”

You can catch this accomplished writer and seasoned performer in Yarcombe and Axmouth.

See Alison Neil in The Fossil Lady of Lyme at : Yarcombe Jubilee Hall at 7.30pm on Friday, February 5, (Tickets 01404 861353) and Axmouth Village Hall, at 7pm, on Saturday, February 6, (Tickets 01297 20679)

To see what else is on through ViA, please visit www.villagesinaction.co.uk

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