Inspirational play ‘Lifeboat’ is floating to Falkirk

'Lifeboat' will be performed at Falkirk Town Hall on November 6 and 7
'Lifeboat' will be performed at Falkirk Town Hall on November 6 and 7
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An inspirational true tale of friendship, courage and survival set against the terrifying backdrop of global warfare will have tears in eyes at FTH.

The town hall will host performances of Catherine Wheels Theatre’s production of ‘Lifeboat’ at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 6, and 1.30 p.m. on Thursday, November 7.

Written by Nicola McCartney and directed by Gill Robertson, the emotion-packed play tells the story of teenagers Bess Walder and Beth Cummings, World War Two evacuees who were travelling to Canada when their ship was torpedoed.

The girls, two of just 11 survivors, spent 19 death defying hours in the Atlantic Ocean, clinging for dear life to an upturned lifeboat, willing each other to survive.

The production, which is dedicated to Bess Walder, was a real labour of love for the creative force behind it.

Writer Nicola said: “I got the inspiration for the play in 1999 after reading an article in a Sunday magazine. Bess Walder and Beth Cummings, then in their 70s, explained how they met while on the evacuee ship The City of Benares in September 1940.

“In the article they credited their survival to the fact they were both together and willed each other to survive, and that they were young and did not realise how dire their situation was.

“They finished the article by saying ‘We were not in the business of giving up, we hung on’ and this ended up a line in the play. Their story had everything, a great friendship, the wartime background and an unbelievable tale of survival and courage.

“Other elements were also interesting, with Bess ending up marrying Beth’s brother Geoff and 60 years on the two women were still firm friends.”

The play has been one of the company’s most successful productions and is close to the heart of director Gill, who, like Nicola, got to meet one of the main characters.

She said: “The most important ingredient in the creation of ‘Lifeboat’ was meeting Bess and her husband Geoff. Nicola and I spend a weekend talking to her about her life leading up to the Benares trip, her experiences onboard and, of course, that terrifying night in the water.

“Both Bess and Beth were adamant they were not special or extraordinary and did not believe their experience was traumatic. As Bess put it, ‘It was war, terrible things happened all the time and we were lucky we survived’.

Gill said the two ladies wanted the play to carry an important message.

“Bess said everyone has deep within them a facility to overcome danger and a strong sense of survival. She told me what happened to her at age 15 gave her the gift of knowing how best to use her life and she hoped all young people who see ‘Lifeboat’ take away the message ‘don’t let go’, because we can all achieve remarkable things.”

The Falkirk Herald has teamed up with FTH to offer lucky readers the chance to win two family tickets to see the play. To win, answer the following: What was the name of the ship Bess and Beth were travelling to Canada on?

Send your answer, along with your name, address and contact telephone number, to Lifeboat Competition, The Falkirk Herald, 4A Gateway Business Park, Beancross Road, Grangemouth, FK3 8WX.

Closing date for entries is Friday, November 1.

Call (01324) 506850 or e-mail for tickets.