Ronald Blythe's winter stay in the Suffolk village of Akenfield, forty-odd years ago, drew out the personal histories, dramas and poetry of village population.
People talked directly to him about their lives and the changes taking place, and the resulting book became a classic.
Agriculture, an often overlooked industry, was modernising at the cost of many jobs, and the social order was changing rapidly.
Eastern Angles' production of Craig Taylor's book Return To Akenfield looks at the same village in the twenty-first century.
It is both powerful and provocative, avoiding the sticky nostalgia of the good old days and asking close questions about change.
The first character to speak is an energetic and well-informed Polish worker, played brilliantly by Robert Macpherson, who has come to study farming and clearly knows a lot more about modern agriculture than many of the locals.
His developing relationship with the waitress (Charlotte Thompson) who just wants to get out and go to University, is tantalising – outsiders are so often blamed for damaging rural communities, but this migrant worker has so much to offer.
The girl gradually warms to him, and she too expands her horizons. A bare telegraph pole, suggesting all the conversations which could have taken place, dominates the stage as she moans about her broadband speed, but he's the one who uses the internet to keep up with the modern world.
Outsiders, the scapegoats for village ills, are not always townies and ignorant 4-by-4 drivers.
The intrusive bargaining power of Tesco illustrates one of central themes of this play – our relationship with our food and, by extension, how and by whom it is grown.
The hard-nosed village shopkeepers, lamenting the days when they stocked everything and knew the tastes of all their local customers, appear later as pensioners dishing out leaflets demanding a new Tesco store.
Growing for supermarkets has forced enormous changes on farmers, but at heart, it's suggested, we all want cheap food at any price.
This value for money conflict is sensitively worked into all aspects of the script, from the estate agents up-marketing derelict farm houses and cottages to the calculation of the small daily fruit picking wage.
The five actors, who between them take on over thirty characters, address the audience directly.
The old Suffolk boy (David Redgrave) who remembers all the varieties of apples, and the ploughing competitions, knows that change can be for the good, wishing that he too could have had a covered cab with a stereo on his tractor.
He reminds us that Akenfield, and Suffolk, are only places you come to because you're going there. (Think about that one!)
But having got there, learning and listening is the way to understand what's happening.
The many woes of rural Anglia underwrite this play. Street lighting, second home owners pricing locals out, few local jobs, the loss of the regional accent, lack of public transport, farming subsidies and the female vicar with too many parishes and insufficient time all take to the stage.
But so do optimism, humour and an understanding that the past isn't always what it's cracked up to be. This vibrant and challenging drama, under the direction of Naomi Jones, ensures that Akenfield's spot on the region's cultural map is there to stay.
Mary Dunk, 2009.