A THEATRE group aims to bring hope and humour to Wear Valley communities that were devastated during the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Jack Drums Arts will this week visit small venues in the Dales to perform Jackie and the Beanstalk.

The play, which is a twist on the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk tale, is performed by three actors playing seven characters with the use of large puppets.

It has several messages particularly relevant to the countryside, and is packed with humour and likeable characters.

With funding from the Single Regeneration Budget the company will be performing in areas that it was unable to visit because of restrictions imposed during the outbreak.

Julie Ward, of Jack Drum Arts, said: "We are touring the country with this play and it has been well received at every venue we've visited so far.

"But the performances in this area, which is home to the company, are perhaps the most important.

"The funds are not always available for us to work locally so the SRB grant is very welcome to those communities.

"It is also nice because some of the villages we will visit were badly hit by foot-and-mouth, which restricted our visits further and the story is good for them -- not only is it a good tale with great characters and humour, but it also gives hope."

On Wednesday, Howden le Wear Community Centre hosted the play.

Other shows will be held each night until Sunday.

They are at Peases West Primary School in Billy Row tonight; Victoria Club in Willington on Friday; Tow Law Community Centre on Saturday, all starting at 7pm; and at the Elite Hall in Crook, on Sunday at 4pm.

Tickets are available for all venues, price £2 adults and £1 concessions and can be reserved by calling Jack Drum Arts on (01388) 730574 or visit www. jackdrum.co.uk.