Rehearsal Hardy Would Have Liked

Our rehearsal on 5 July was at Max Gate, and as we rehearsed in the grounds of Thomas Hardy’s house, in the sunshine, it all felt like it was coming together just as he would have wished.

We’ll share a few shots of the rehearsal with you below – do come and see the performance for yourself.

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Extra Tickets Now Available

We are very happy to announce that tickets are again available for all of this season’s open-air performances of The Return Of The Native around Hardy Country.

The popularity of Howard Payton’s new adaptation of The Return Of The Native, Thomas Hardy’s story of intrigue, hope and destiny on Egdon Heath, has meant that tickets have sold out even faster than usual, disappointing some fans.

To cater for this unexpected demand, we have agreed extra capacity with the venues involved, including Max Gate in Dorchester: the home Thomas Hardy designed and built for his family.

Our Chairman, Andy Worth, said: “Max Gate sells out every year, but I’m delighted that tickets have sold so well for our tenth anniversary production”.

See our Current Production page for details.

The New Hardy Players can also be seen this summer at the popular Tea With Mr Hardy events at Max Gate.

Tea with Mr Hardy

~ Mr and Mrs Thomas Hardy invite you to ~

**   Tea With Mr Hardy   **

At their home: Max Gate, Dorchester, on Thursday 18th June

  • Tea and very light refreshments will be served in the garden from 3.45pm
  • In the presence of Sir Frederick Treves, Sergeant-Surgeon to His Majesty, and author of ‘Highways and Byways of Dorset’
  • Scenes from ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ will be performed by the Hardy Players

Normal National Trust admission charges apply

After the proceedings conclude at 5pm, you may wish to make a voluntary contribution towards the defrayal of expenses.

Later in the season, there are further opportunities to take tea with Mr and Mrs Hardy at Max Gate:

Wednesday 15th July: when Dr Marie Stopes will be in attendance and the Hardy Players will present scenes from ‘Tess of the D’Urbevilles’

Thursday 13th August: Mr Siegfried Sassoon and Mrs Virginia Woolf are hoping to attend, and the Hardy Players will recite some favourite verse from Mr Hardy’s extensive oeuvre

Thursday 20th August: You are cordially invited to Tea and Country Dancing under the expert instruction of Mrs Laycock, and in the extrovert presence [straight from the West End] of the renowned tragedian Mrs Patrick Campbell.

If you wish to attend one or more of the Teas, kindly RSVP to The National Trust at Max Gate, indicating your intention.

01305 262538 or email

Please arrive by 3.45pm. Tea commences at 4pm. Carriages at 5pm.


The New Hardy Players Tenth Anniversary Season

Click here to see events at National Trusts’s Max Gate.

Click here to download poster as PDF.

Return of the Native – see an Excerpt

Some of the New Hardy Players performed a scene from the forthcoming production of The Return of the Native to mark Thomas Hardy’s birthday on 6 June. The performance took place outside County Hall in Dorchester, though the audience were told to imagine they were on Egdon Heath.

You can see a video of this excerpt here.

More work with the National Trust

Group of people in nineteenth century costume in a woodland setting

The New Hardy Players performed their ‘Woodland Words’ presentation, devised by Tim Laycock, for the second time since the opening of the new visitor centre, close to Hardy’s birthplace, on May 2nd at the request of the National Trust.

Group of people in nineteenth century costume, in a clearing
A new performance area where the Players had an inspiring view looking down on Hardy’s birthplace while performing ‘Woodland Words’ for the third time.

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Sign advertising the Shearing Supper a scene from Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd.

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The New Hardy Players enjoy a May Day Shearing Supper thanks to the release of the new film adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd. Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene are present with songs and readings from the farm hands being all part of the fun, finished off with a dance for visitors and Players alike. The very tasty supper was provided by National Trust staff and volunteers and offered to visitors.

NHP Performs for St George

Fordington, on the outskirts of Dorchester, puts on a Fair to celebrate St George’s day each year, and this year invited the New Hardy Players to participate.

This tied in well with Thomas Hardy’s liking of Mummers Plays, which are folk plays with a long tradition in Britain, tending to have simple good v evil plots, and often featuring St George.

Thomas Hardy remembered seeing the Christmas mummers at Puddletown as they performed their plays from house to house, and in ‘The Return of the Native’ he used them as models for the Egdon Mummers. When the Hardy players staged a dramatisation of his novel in 1920. Hardy enthusiastically involved himself with the mumming ‘Play of Saint George’.

Group of people in costume for the mummer's play
New Hardy Players at Fordington

To keep the tradition going, we did our own version of the ‘Play of Saint George’ on Fordington Green. It was very well received, with some good heckling!

April 19 – Set Building Starts

Three men putting together wooden frames

Three men building wooden frames

We have been trying out the construction of the set for “The Return of the Native” with the stage management team Mike Lofthouse and Andrew Munro at Max Gate.

As we take the performance to several locations, the set has to be designed to both enhance the drama of the play, and to be adaptable and able to be dismantled speedily after performances.

Model with two plastic figures, being a series of hurdles arranged to form a stage area

This is our model of the set with scale figures not yet in costume!

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