'Impossible' Lynmouth RNLI lifeboat rescue brought to life on stage

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report

One of the most difficult lifeboat rescues in RNLI history is being retold on stage for audiences in Devon and Somerset.

Louisa is the daring real life tale of how volunteers carried a lifeboat 13 miles across Exmoor to save the crew on board a ship doomed to crash into the rocks.

On the night of the 12 January 1899, a raging storm meant it was unsafe to launch the Louisa from Lynmouth Bay so 100 villagers and 18 horses trekked the vessel across the moor to Porlock Weir where it was more sheltered.

This photo taken in Lynmouth four years later in 1903 shows how people transported the lifeboat

More than 120 years later, it is a story that has come to represent so much about this North Devon community and it is now being shown on stage.

Creative Director Helena Payne says telling this legendary tale has been a "huge responsibility" with so many people living in the villages related to people involved in the rescue.

"They were incredibly inspiring people but what our show is about the power of community and what those people are capable of achieving when they work together," she said.

The Pleasure Dome Theatre Company normally performs out in the elements of the Valley of the Rocks, so it is a new challenge to bring the miles of coastline to town and village halls across Devon and Somerset.

Exmoor-based Pleasure Dome Theatre Company uses physical theatre and sea shanties to tell the story of Louisa Credit: ITV News

The cast say they are very aware of how important this story is for those watching.

Actor Lydia Barton-Lovett told ITV West Country: "It is an epic tale, it sometimes seems like it should be on the big screen."

For costume designer Leanne Berry, who is the second generation in her family to reenact the story, getting the look and feel of the era is vital.

Her father performed in the centenary reenactment in 1999 as one of the villagers pulling the Louisa.

A reenactment of the journey took place in 1999 to mark 100 years since the mission Credit: Steve Guscott

She explained: "It's a story that's told through the generations and on Thursdays down at the pubs there's sea shanties so its still rooted in little things we still do these days as well."

The 13-date tour - in partnership with the RNLI - is travelling to venues including Taunton, Minehead, Ilfracombe and Exeter.