The Rich and The Pure: New Film Based on the True Story of St Mary Magdalene’s Church in Torquay
A new film depicting a Devon church reaching out to the poor and marginalised in Victorian Torbay features local actors who have faced homelessness and addiction themselves.
The Rich and The Pure has been produced by the Unleashed Drama Company for St Mary Magdalene’s (known as St Mags), Torquay, as part of its National Heritage Lottery Funded INSPIRE project.
The film is based on the true story of how St Mags Church became the first church in Torbay to have unappropriated pews. Up until that point the rich would pay to have their own pew, pushing out the less fortunate.
“In 1848, when it was built it was the first and only church that anyone was welcome to, and it is still at the forefront of churches in Torbay reaching out to the poor and the marginalised,” said Director Martin Harris.
As well as poverty, the film captures the raw turbulence of Victorian Britain including the bread riots and cholera epidemic.
“It grew into this really ambitious project and it is basically now an hour-long full-scale costume drama.”
St Mary Magdalene’s Rev’d Sam Leach, explained how he feels the project is important for telling the story of the church: “For me and for many in St Mags this insistence of the unappropriated pews is still part of the DNA. It’s like it’s woven into the fabric of the church that this wouldn’t be a place of hierarchy and a place where the wealthy were treated differently to those on the margins.
“That it still very much the legacy of St Mags.”
All the actors in the production are from Unleashed Drama Company, a Christian theatre group, which runs performance workshops and provides opportunities for people who have faced homelessness and/or are recovering from addiction.
Nick Murphy plays the main character, Reverend Wolfe, who was the catalyst for social change. Nick said the role, “helped me gain my confidence back and meet people. I had to find other things to do, things that would help me in my recovery. It’s helping being around normal people.”
“It’s hard work but it’s worth it. I’ve seen the trailer for it, and I didn’t think it would turn out that good.”
Nick joked, “I hope I get famous now!”
After being interrupted by the November 2020 lockdown, plans for filming changed. Martin and the Unleashed Drama Company persevered, rehearsing over Zoom.
Funded by the National Lottery and National Heritage Fund, the production was filmed by a professional cinematographer over 6 weeks in the actual locations where the history of St Mags unfolded.
“The film we’ve ended up with is far and above anything that we would have been able to do as a small 40minute theatre piece,” said Martin.
Sam Leach said, “The Inspire Project has enabled us to be collaborative and work with a wide range of the community to help them feel like St Mags is their church, encourage them to come down and get to know us and us to get to know them. It’s been very joyful. Hard work, but joyful.”
The film premiere is at St Mags church on Saturday 22 May. Doors open at 6.45 pm with in-person and online tickets still available.
Saturday’s screening will also include a ‘Behind the Scenes Documentary’ about the making of the film, interviews and the inspiration behind Inspire!
Pre-Booking is essential using this link – https://stmags.churchsuite.co.uk/events/xiqoefyl