DARTMOOR-based theatre company MED Theatre is preparing for a new community production entitled Melys, which is being performed at a number of Dartmoor venues in March.

MED Theatre (Manaton and East Dartmoor Theatre) produces original drama for and about the people of Dartmoor, using a mixture of professional artists and local participants. 'Melys' marks their twentieth anniversary.

The play, written by Dartmoor playwright Mark Beeson, is being produced as part of MED Theatre's Myth project, which takes the characters, settings and folklore that Dartmoor is famous for as a starting point for new performance work. Melys gets its title from the ancient story of Melys and Hael, told from a modern perspective.

The 'myth drama' has our attitude to strangers at its heart. The heroine, Melys, is half Spanish — her mother belonged to the Gitanos, or Spanish Roma. Dartmoor, as an age-old refuge for outcasts from society, has a long Roma tradition, which mingles with the mythology of the chovihani or witch. The persecution of Roma (originally called Egyptians) all across Europe down the centuries is mirrored in the persecution dealt out in the great witch hunt, and reflects the same pathological fear of what is different, which a civilised society has to take risks to overcome.

The thirty-strong cast of Melys, local people with an age range of 10 to 60, have been working with a professional director, choreographer and composer from the Dartmoor area throughout the rehearsal process, with the aim of producing a play that tells the audience a story set close to home in a way that is memorable, moving and entertaining.

Melys will be performed over six nights in March at the following venues and all performances start at 7.30pm. Manaton Parish Hall, March 5 and 6; Scoriton Community Hall, March 10; Christow Community Hall March 11; Moretonhampstead Parish Hall, March 12 and 13.

Tickets can be reserved by calling 01647 441356 or by emailing [email protected]">[email protected] and cost £5 for adults, £3.00 for under 18's and £4.00 for concessions.

MED Theatre's current project has been financially supported by the Headley Trust, South West of England Regional Development Agency, Villages in Action Digital Express, South West Arts' Regional Arts and several other organisations including West Devon Borough Council.