A Time to Keep is large-cast community play written for the Dorchester Community Players by David Edgar and Stephanie Dale. It was first performed at The Thomas Hardye School, Dorchester, on 16 November 2007.
Set in Dorset in the summer of 1804, against the backdrop of the threatened Napoleonic invasion of Britain, A Time to Keep inhabits terrain somewhere between Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, with its ambitious middle-classes, its garrison of eligible officers, and its impoverished low-lifes. Driving the plot is an unlikely but passionate romance between Mary, a well-born but feisty young woman, and Isaac, the youngest son of a family of notorious smugglers.
The play has a cast list of over 115 names (almost all of them real, historical people), reflecting the nature of a community play. As the authors write in an introduction to the published script, 'The Dorchester Community Plays Association insists that everyone who wants a part in one of its plays gets one. ... Our first draft had a cast of 92; our second draft went down to 84. It’s a tribute to Dorchester’s four previous community plays that we were inundated with volunteers for this one.'
The original production was directed by Jon Oram and designed by Ariane Gastambide.