A GRAPHIC novel ballad telling the story of a Dorset romance is coming to the Portland stage this weekend.

The ballad, produced by the Cabinet of Living Cinema, tells the story of Paul Nash and Eileen Agar’s affair in Dorset in the mid 1930s through their relationship with the Purbeck world which enchanted them; objects washed up on the beach they endowed with personalities, strange rock shapes with animistic qualities, fossils like ghosts embedded in the ancient strata, a landscape made surreal both by quarrying and the remnants of ancient geology.

Eileen gave Nash a box of painted shells in 1935. He was enraptured with the gift and with her.

She became his muse, an ‘exquisite stone that could fly’, though their flight was not to last and later letters revels Nash’s desperation at her decision to end the affair.

This encounter with Eileen in Dorset represents one of the most significant waymarks in Nash’s journey to a new form of painting.

Paul Nash was a painter-poet in the tradition of Blake and began to infuse his paintings with this wealth of symbols, creating a new language for English landscape painting.

These developments concluded in Nash’s most accomplished cycle of work in the years preceding his death in Boscombe, Dorset, 1946, where he declared once more to be within reach of ‘his kingdom’.

In addition to exploring Nash and Ager’s relationship, the fable also explores Nash’s rehabilitation after the death of his father and his experiences in the trenches in 1917, in particular, the guilt he may have harboured knowing that his entire company had been wiped out shortly after he was invalided in May 1917.

Nash’s paintings are preoccupied by the symbolism of death, rebirth and flight and his journey in the 30s represents a kind of awakening after a long period of psychical trauma: “unless I somehow drown, I shall spread my wings”.

Formed in 2010 by musician and composer Kieron Maguire, live performance group, The Cabinet of Living Cinema present work which combines original composed music with recorded sound, hand-drawn illustrations, animation, photography and literature to create unique performances. The Cabinet is regularly accompanied by guest musicians to create highly original soundscapes and compositions, which build up a repertoire that is both distinctive and ambitious in its presentation and performativity.

The Kingdom of Paul Nash is supported by Lottery Funding through Arts Council England

n The Kingdom of Paul Nash: The Cabinet of Living Cinema, Royal Manor Theatre, Portland, Saturday, September 23, 7.30pm. Call the box office for tickets.