In 1968, the village of Lydbrook became home to actors, directors, cameras, costumes, and a real live bear, as filming got underway for a new television play by local playwright Dennis Potter.
The play was A Beast With Two Backs, and a new exhibition at the Dean Heritage Centre tells the story of this remarkable production.
Inspired by the infamous ‘killing of the bears’ incident, the play revolves around themes of religion, infidelity, fear, and mob mentality after a visiting Italian and his performing bear are made scapegoats for the death of a local woman.
Unusually for the time, much of the filming took place on location and research for the exhibition has pinned down many of the exact places in and around Lower Lydbrook where scenes were filmed. The play also features many local extras including children from the village’s primary school.
The exhibition was first shown in Lydbrook in 2015 alongside a screening of the play. “There was a great response,” says organiser and local resident Jason Griffiths of the University of Gloucestershire, “and we uncovered some fascinating new information about the production.”
As well as identifying many of the extras, some of whom still live in the village today, more was uncovered about the production, and these new findings are being shared in this updated version of the exhibition. The organisers are especially interested to hear from anyone who remembers seeing or being involved in the filming of the play, or who remembers it being first shown on TV.
The exhibition runs until March 12th.
The exhibition was put together by staff and students at University of Gloucestershire, in partnership with Lydbrook Historical Society (Lynn Walker), University of Warwick, British Film Institute, and Dean Heritage Centre.
One of the child-extras identified is Alison Edwards who now owns and runs Lydbrook Central Stores.
Local resident Tracy Hayler’s grandmother worked at Viaduct Stores at the time, near The Forge Hammer which was temporary HQ for hair, make-up and costumes. Tracy says her gran has always told them: “One of the production crew came into the shop asking for hairspray. ‘It’s not for me,’ he said, ‘it’s for the bear!’”
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