The audience in Acomb Parish Hall on Thursday rose to give a standing ovation for Riding Lights' performance of a different drum, all the more notable since many amongst us had been pronounced dead only moments earlier. As one, we had become the residents of Eyam, immersed in their incredible story of extraordinary self-sacrifice.
Riding Lights' talent for delving into and exposing those emotions that drive human endeavour excels in this play. Whilst living and dying with those villagers in the 17th century we were gripped by further accounts of selflessness shown by individuals and communities throughout history. Some of these are joyful, some harrowing, but all demonstrate the power of love for others, over and above oneself. There is a lot of laughter too, with Riding Lights' knack for interjecting just the right amount of humour in the right places.
The energy, passion and sheer talent of the five actors in the cast is inspiring in itself. They transform effortlessly between characters, centuries and continents, whilst constantly shifting innovative and noticeably heavy pieces of set around, and treating us to wonderful musical interludes. The quality of the music was exceptional, the girls having beautiful voices - and is there an instrument that Jonathan Bidgood can't play? The core narrative tells how the village of Eyam in Derbyshire, fell prey to the plague from fleas contained in silk from London. As villagers began to die the community decided to cut itself off from the outside world in order to protect others, to quarantine itself even though this would certainly mean death for many.
Our faith in human nature is assailed daily by news stories, but a different drum renews that faith. It leaves you in a good place from which to forge on into the year ahead. So those new year resolutions involving running shoes and definitely no chocolate may have already fallen by the wayside but you could do no better than to take up the theme which pervades this play : 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' A simple maxim which could make such a difference in the world.
Riding Lights Theatre Company, A Different Drum, on tour until April 27. Box office: 01904 613000. Tour itinerary: ridinglights.org/drum/
Review by Rory Eckersley