PREVIEW: The Man Who Captured Sunlight shines light on Yorkshire inventor Samson Fox

Yorkshire’s Samson Fox – the 19th century inventor who first lit up the streets of Harrogate – is back in the spotlight with a new play about his extraordinary life.

The Man Who Captured Sunlight puts inventor Samson Fox in the spotlight at Harrogate’s Royal Hall on September 23, 2022.
The Man Who Captured Sunlight puts inventor Samson Fox in the spotlight at Harrogate’s Royal Hall on September 23, 2022.

The Man Who Captured Sunlight will be performed in the theatre he was instrumental in building, at Harrogate’s Royal Hall, with a 2.30pm matinee and 7pm evening performance, on September 23, 2022.

BUY TICKETS: Tickets are £25 each and available from the Harrogate Theatres web site – visit www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk.

There will also be an audience Q&A after the performance with playwright, actors and director, plus Fox acting dynasty family ancestors - film commitments permitting.

He is the great-grandfather of Edward Fox, star of British film classic The Day of the Jackal, the father of Emilia Fox, of TV’s Silent Witness fame and Freddie Fox, who plays Mark Thatcher in Netflix hit The Crown.

Edward and Freddie were advisors on the project along with local historian Malcolm Neesam. Doctor Who writer, Gavin Collinson, was commissioned to write the script.

Freddie said: “Having just put the script down, I can honestly say I thought it was brilliantly written. Insightful, moving, funny, poignant… I think it’s a really terrific portrayal of its subject and characters. Gavin has woven the poetry and theatre of the Fox’s of today into the fabric of the lives of our industrialist predecessors - a beautiful touch - In short, I loved it!”

The Man Who Captured Sunlight is the first time the remarkable story of one of the UK’s most meteoric inventors will be told on stage.

Described as an Elon Musk of his day, Fox helped to spearhead the Industrial Revolution.

But he was born into poverty in Bradford in 1838, worked in the mills from the age of nine and the play charts his meteoric rise. He became Mayor of Harrogate from 1889 to 1892.

He was an impresario, who famously ‘bottled the sun’ as Harrogate’s streets became the first thoroughfares in the world to be lit, with his Fox Water-Gas.

A Hollywood movie was inspired by Fox’s inventions, but befalling him later in life was a controversial court case with the literary figure, Jerome K Jerome.

Fox will be portrayed by Joe Standerline, who has appeared in TV shows such as ITV’s Victoria, the soon-to-be-seen The Full Monty on Disney Plus and Safe, on Netflix.

Bringing the story to dramatic life is North of Watford, a long-standing, leading agency, which has a reputation for representing the most talented and professional actors in the North.

Sian Murray, director of the play, said: “It’s a dramatic, engrossing story that deserves to be told and one that Harrogate, and the North as a whole, should celebrate. It’s also thrilling to bring to life a new and original stage play, performed in the very theatre Samson himself was instrumental in building in Harrogate – the beautiful Royal Hall.”

Cause UK, the Harrogate-based creative agency, are producers and sponsors of the play.

Producers Cause UK commissioned Doctor Who writer Gavin Collinson to write the script

Clair Challenor-Chadwick, director of Cause UK, said: “We’ve been aware of Samson Fox for many years, yet little is known about him in the public consciousness.

"He was the Elon Musk of his day, and we hope this play will help reclaim his place in history, as celebration of his life and remarkable legacy. He was instrumental, not only as a great engineer and inventor, but in the building of the Royal Hall, Harrogate’s ‘glittering palace of gold’, as well as the Royal College of Music in London. Harrogate, and the nation, owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”