With a national conference, RSA discussions and the BBC4 documentary (and film release) of Michael Sheen’s The Passion (The God of Us) there a lot of talk about participatory arts at the moment (for example see this blog from the RSA @georginaarnold From Spectatorship to Engagement or this post at @guardianculturepros).Here at Eastern Angles we’re about to kick off two very exciting and demanding projects which put non professional performers right at the heart of our work. First up is our 30th anniversary production of Margaret Catchpole at the Hush House. It’s one of Suffolk’s great stories…and we plan to give it exactly what it deserves – a spectacular theatre production of daring, deception, romance and betrayal all with the help of a community chorus.
The Community Chorus will consist of between 20 and 25 local people, playing a variety of smugglers, farmers and servants throughout the show. They will be key elements of the piece – acting, singing, dancing, and even engaging in the odd skirmish
The show will be running for 22 performances from Thursday 21 June to Sunday 8 July, and rehearsals will be in Ipswich on Sunday afternoons initially with some weekday evenings as we get closer to opening night. To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring us on 01473 218202, talk to one of the Eastern Angles team or read more here.One of the participants in Bentwaters Road (our previous Hush House project) told me the other day how the experience had been – quite literally – transformative, paving the way for her to go on to drama school and opening doors in ways she’d never anticipated.
Bit further into the future we are already putting into place plans for a new community play for Peterborough by Tony Ramsay (writer of Bentwater Roads and the forthcoming Life and Good Times of John Clare). Keep checking the Forty Years On and Eastern Angles web pages for further details.
I’ll also be keeping an eye on another couple of participatory performance projects. Up in Leeds rehearsals have started for Red Ladder’s dramatisation of A Promised Land – growing up with Leeds United. The award wining book on which the play is based is by Wivenhoe based writer Anthony Clavane. And there was me thinking I was the only loiner in Wiv! Follow that projects progress at @redladdertheatrOver in Norwich the N+N festival features The Voice Project – with music by (amongst others) Orlando Gough). Orlando Gough and Richard Chew’s The Shouting Fence was the first participatory project I produced – and as such was something of a baptisim of fire! That said I shall never forget the ecstatic high everyone was on at the end of the performance (over a river , outside the Oracle shopping centre). It was the first time I’d really experienced the unique and special energy that occurs when professional and non professional performers share the space, their energy and experiences. If you get the opportunity – whatever your background (you rarely need previous experience for projects like these) to take part in one of these – or the many projects like it – DO IT. From personal experience I can say you won’t regret it!