NORTH Country Theatre is normally famous for ripping yarns and of course the brilliant spoof stage version of The 39 Steps was Richmond director Nobby Dimon’s idea. So it’s a surprise to find it doing something a little more pastoral this autumn with an adaptation of JL Carr’s A Month in the Country, which was original published as a novel in 1980.

The book was made into a film in 1987 with Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh and Natasha Richardson in the starring roles. Wensleydale actor Mark Cronfield will lead the five-strong cast in North Country’s stage version.

“JL Carr was born in Carlton Miniot near Thirsk, the son of a railwayman,” explains Dimon. “Carr set several of his novels in the area. A Month in the Country is a story of a fondly remembered rural past, a story of love, loss and recovery. We’re always interested in stories with a North Country flavour or angle.”

The plot follows Tom Birkin, a First World War veteran employed to uncover a mural in a village church that was thought to exist under numerous coats of whitewash. At the same time another veteran is employed to look for a grave beyond the churchyard walls. Both men have recently returned from the horrors of the trenches and find themselves working side-by-side in a North Yorkshire village church. What they slowly uncover is an ancient village mystery, hidden passions and the healing power of a month in the country. The company didn’t need to look very far for inspiration, because within walking distance of the company’s rehearsal space is St Agatha’s Church, which is just outside Richmond via a path along the riverside.

“Little of the original church remains,” explains Dimon, “but St Agatha’s retains some medieval frescoes that were preserved through the Reformation, after being whitewashed over for many years. It has proved quite an inspiration.”

North Country’s stage adaptation of A Month in The Country was first toured in 2002 and the new production, with set designs by Barnard Castle-based scenic artist Simon Pell, opens at the Georgian Theatre Royal on October 1 before a 46-date tour across the region. Full tour schedule at n Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, October 1 & 2. Box Office: 0174-882-5252 or