Page last updated at 21:08 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

'Last' Thomas Hardy player back on stage in Dorchester

Norrie Woodhall
Norrie Woodhall was cast by Thomas Hardy in Tess of the D'Urbervilles

A woman who is one of the last people alive to have known Dorset author Thomas Hardy and perform his plays is to take to the stage at 104 years old.

Norrie Woodhall will perform Hardy's work on Friday night in a bid to keep an important collection of his work in Dorset for future generations.

She is raising money for the Hardy Players Manuscript Fund, by performing with local actors in Dorchester.

The fund hopes to raise £58,000 to buy the collection and keep it in Dorset.

The county is where Hardy was born and famously spent most of his life.

Ms Woodhall, who is the last remaining member of the original Hardy Players, will perform at Dorset County Museum.

She was cast by Hardy as Tess's sister Liza Lu in the stage version of his novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles in Dorchester in 1928.

Added more lines

Her sister, Gertrude Bugler, played Tess.

Hardy added more lines to her part when he felt she did not have enough to say.

The collection of work for sale includes scripts, some with handwritten production notes, programmes, posters and stage set models collected by Thomas Tilley, stage manager of the original Hardy Players.

The campaign is being organised by the University of Exeter, Dorset County Museum, Dorset History Centre, the New Hardy Players and the Thomas Hardy Society.

The original players were disbanded after Hardy's death.

Dr Angelique Richardson, of the university, said the collection was of importance to the region and for understanding the cultural life of the early 20th Century.

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