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Counterparts Music Theatre Arts Ltd is registered in England & Wales
Charity no: 1109259 / Company no: 5398076
Company address: Gresham House, Albaston, Cornwall PL18 9AB, England

The Highwayman & Songs from the Shadows (2006)

joe gladwin and helen porter

andy morton and harriet fraser
rob and jess as the spider and the fly
highwayman flyer artwork

Puppeteer Joe Gladwin &
Composer Helen Porter

Andy Morton and Harriet Fraser
in rehearsal
Robert Gildon and Jessica Sherman as
The Spyder and The Fly
Publicity Image
click here to download the Highwayman programme
shadow animation image The Highwayman


“The road was a ribbon of moonlight
over the purple moor.
The highwayman came riding, riding, riding
The highwayman came riding
up to the old inn door”

Celebrating its centenary, The Highwayman, Alfred Noyes’ passionate and tragic ballad, remains one of the nations best-loved dramatic narratives. Dorset composer Helen Porter has set The Highwayman to music for the unusual combination of 7 singers, ranging from soaring soprano to low bass, and 7 instrumentalists – string quintet, tuned and untuned percussion and piano. Her dramatic and evocative music, together with stunning shadow animation from the internationally acclaimed Joe Gladwin (Paperplays), bring to life this haunting story of doomed love, betrayal and the ultimate sacrifice in a beautiful staged concert.

Also included in the evening are settings of six short dramatic Victorian ballads, including Thomas Hardy’s ‘A Trampwoman’s Tragedy’ for mezzo and string quintet, and ‘Bishop Hatto and the Rats’ for narrator and string quartet. The narrator was Peter Baldwin, the well known theatre and television actor. The singers have huge ranging experience from opera to musicals, Baroque to Contemporary, Choral to Jazz. They bring to this performance their particular skills both as actors and singers, and are all professional soloists in their own right. The instrumentalists are drawn largely from Bournemouth Orchestras, and many are equally well established as soloists in the region.

Composer Helen Porter began her career with the Bristol based Public Parts Theatre Company. Working in the Netherlands between 1992 and 1998, she formed Counterparts Theatre Company and built a reputation as an innovative and original music theatre maker. Her equal passion for theatre, music and singing inspires work which combines the forces of all three. Recent commissions include composer-in-residence for ‘Silk’ (Whitchurch Silk Mill, 2003), Songs for the Heart (Salisbury District Hospital, 2004) and Back In Time For School, the centenary production for Bedales junior school (2005). ‘The Highwayman and Other Songs From The Shadows’ is her latest and largest work to date.

Helen Porter: “The ballad of ‘The Highwayman’ has always intrigued me for its uncompromising passion and intense rhythmic drive. I chose to set it for seven singers in order to achieve the maximum possible vocal colour and expression, combined with the versatility and intensity of a string quintet and percussion. This combination has enabled me to capture the tenderest moments of the story through to the most brutal, as well as to reveal the landscape and the passing of time through music. It’s my wish that this, heightened further still with the use of shadow animation, will create an atmosphere which will have the audience sitting on the edge of their seats!” Helen is also the vocalist with the highly successful jazz cabaret quartet Misbehavin’.

Joe Gladwin lived and worked for many years in Australia, where he built a reputation as a solo puppeteer and puppet theatre director. He toured extensively in South East Asia and Australia as well as performing in festivals in Jerusalem, Hong Kong and Japan. Joe has collaborated with Helen Porter on theatre projects both here and abroad, including most recently his versions of ‘Bluebeard’ and ‘The Hound of The Baskervilles’, performed at Salisbury International Arts Festival and Chard Festival of Women in Music. Joe has runs his own company ‘Paperplays Puppet Theatre’ which is now based in Wiltshire.

Alfred Noyes was born in 1880. He published a number of short and longer works including Drake: An English Epic, but The Highwayman is arguably his most beloved poem. He lived the latter part of his life on the Isle of Wight and died there in 1958.

Helen Porter (composer/artistic director)
Joe Gladwin (shadow animation and designs)
Sarah Richards (assistant shadow animator)
Paul Searle-Barnes (conductor)
Harriet Fraser (soprano)
Jessica Sherman (soprano)
Kathy Taylor-Jones (mezzo)
Philippa Forrest (alto)
Andrew Morton (tenor)
Robert Gildon (baritone)
Jeremy Birchall (bass)
Peter Baldwin (narrator)
Russell Dawson (violin 1)
Lucy Anne Allen (violin 2)
Aidan Fisher (viola)
David Norton (cello)
Valdon Mizen (double bass)
Mark Whitlam (percussion)
Paul Searle-Barnes (piano)

1 The Mistletoe Bough - Thomas Haynes-Bayley Harriet fraser, Andy Morton, Jeremy Birchall and ensemble
2 The Enchanted Shirt - Colonel John Hay Andy Morton, Robert Gildon and ensemble
3 Bishop Hatto and the Rats - Robert Southey Peter Baldwin
4 A Trampwoman's Tragedy - Thomas Hardy Kathy Taylor-Jones, Andy Morton, Philippa Forrest, Jeremy Birchall
5 The Spider and the Fly - Mary Howitt Jessica Sherman, Robert Gildon
6 Price of a Drink? - Josephine Pollard Ensemble
7 The Highwayman - Alfred Noyes Ensemble

Performance dates/venues

  • Thur 5 Oct 2006 (Premiere) Salisbury Arts Centre
  • Fri 6 Oct Olivier Theatre, Bedales School, Petersfield
  • Sat 7 Oct Centenary Hall, Port Regis, Shaftesbury
  • Wed 11 Oct Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre, Taunton
  • Fri 13 Oct Arc Theatre Trowbridge
  • Mon 30 Oct Poole Lighthouse
  • Thur 9 Nov Digby Hall, Sherborne

The production was supported by Arts Council England South West, Awards for All, The Foundation for Sport and the Arts, Dorset County Council, North Dorset District Council and The Mackintosh Foundation.