In the winter of 1890 a windswept troupe of actors arrives in a small town, perched on cliffs above the Atlantic. Dragging with them a cartload of scenery and an emaciated pianist, they have come to give a performance of Beethoven’s opera “Fidelio”.
The inhospitable, granite-grey town is in crisis: its once-glorious tin mine, upon which everyone’s livelihood has depended for generations, is on its last legs.
As these different worlds collide, the actors find melodrama spilling over into everyday life and discover that they are not the only ones who survive by appearing to be something they are not.
The actor-manager’s business acumen proves no match for local cunning and she is misled into investing in the mine. When it unexpectedly yields up new treasures, any notion of fair play is abandoned.
Three contrasting love stories unfold as villagers and actors seize an opportunity to transform their lives. As the community’s spiritual leaders come to blows deep underground, a ripping good performance of Beethoven’s ‘Fidelio’ is given in the town hall – against all odds.
One strand of the story is based on Edward Bosanketh’s novel ‘Tin’, published in 1888. The protagonists were based on well-known local characters (thinly disguised) and the story exposed the real-life dodgy dealings of the local bank. Subsequently, Bolitho’s Bank attempted to buy and destroy all copies of the book!
In 1888, a respected grocer, farmer and mine owner, called Richard Boyns, published a novel called TIN, about his father’s involvement in a blatant swindle by a local bank in West Cornwall.
Though he changed all the names, the characters were easily recognizable and the novel caused outrage. The bankers bought up as many copies of first edition as they could find and burned them.
Fortunately a few survived and this colourful Victorian novel provided the basis for a stage play produced by Miracle Theatre in 2012, in partnership with English Touring Opera and Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. It has taken a further 3 years to transform this show into a feature film.
To tell this very Cornish story, the producers decided to work with local actors, crew and postproduction facilities. For instance, the visual effects were done by award-winning animation company Spider Eye, which just happens to be based in the old Consolidated Bank building in St Just, where the real-life forgery took place 135 years ago.
TIN was part of a digital project, funded by NESTA and the Arts Council of England, to look at innovative ways of capturing small-scale theatre productions for wider distribution, with the aim of reaching new audiences and markets.
Audience comments from the sell out stage production of Tin in 2012:
“You would need a heart of tin not to warm to it – all Cornish life is there!’’
“Poignant and wonderful.”
“A wonderful story of mischief, love, music and high drama.”
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