Shirts, tweets and a sense of place – another set of Friday musings

Headed to Helpston on Wednesday for the opening of our brand new play @ramsaytony ‘s The Long Life and Great Good Fortune of John Clare. If ever there was a name of a play not designed for twitter it’s this one (the hashtag is #johnclare if you’re interested) . Mind you that’s not stopped Stamford actor Henry Devas (@henrydevas) live tweeting from within the show. ‘Today I’m making twittstory (that’s twitter history he helpfully explained) by tweeting live on stage at #johnclarecottage’. ‘Jokes aside’ he continued ‘ great crowd so far – word has spread about this new play’

Of course this has not been Eastern Angles first dalliance with ‘live social media’. During Margaret Catchpole actress @beckypennick would write a daily live blog during the second act whilst on set at a writing desk as Elizabeth Cobbold (see here). Of course it wasn’t strictly live – Becky was writing with a quill pen for starters and the piece was set in the late 1700’s early 1800s so whipping out an i-pad would have been somewhat incongruous.

Keep an eye on Henry’s twitter feed for the latest live tweets between 1430-1530 on Saturday. Better still get yourself along to the John Clare Cottage on Saturday at 1430 and see the performance live. Tom Fox gave us our first mini review ‘John Clare play was absolutely superb! For both Clare-heads and those who know nothing about him the play is a must-see!’

The John Clare cottage – who commissioned the play for their brilliantly ambitious We Love Words festival – is definitely worth a visit. Alongside the house itself – remarkably preserved – there are the gardens, a well stoked shop and a café serving the very best in home made food. I can thoroughly recommend the tomato soup – just right after a long drive. Clare himself would undoubtedly have approved!

Seeing the performance in the place where the man lived gave the play an extraordinarily moving beauty and poignancy. Apparently during the dress rehearsal a flock of geese flew over head in the final movements and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house (the pics by Mel Evans are from that dress rehearsal)

Of course @easternangles are known for the sense of place in their work but recently we’ve increasingly started to play with projects which we can perform in places which have direct relevance to the story. You might even call them ‘#hyperlocal plays. So for example our #privateresistance show – a WW2 drama about Churchill’s underground army and a fictitious attempt to blow up railway infrastructure– toured to both the East Anglian Railway Museum and the Parham Airfield which houses a replica underground army (auxiliary unit) bunker.

Not surprisingly we find it offers audiences that something extra, that additional quality which makes the overall experience – the visit to the place, the performance and the activity around it – take on that unique and special feel. We’ve got a few more projects up our sleeve which will exploit this fertile area so do keep an eye on the Eastern Angles web site for the latest news and updates.

On Tuesday I headed off to Norwich for the Festival of Social Enterprise (#FSE12) and you can read my thoughts here . What struck me as I chatted with Sarah Blair-Manning – CEO at Clare Cottage – is how the themes of that day (new ways of doing things, collaboration, creativity and partnership) were embedded in the modus operandi of the Cottage. So much so that this ambitious organisation has just ‘bought’ one of the local pubs (ironically mentioned in the play) and is currently developing a whole set of exciting ideas for it’s use. Definitely an organisation to go visit and keep an eye on!

Then it was a mad dash onto a @greateranglia train (reading this very interesting document from the local economic partnership about the future needs of the rail network) to get back for the @wolseytheatre ‘s new show Mods and Rockers. Loosely based on Cyrano de Bergerac the work followed in a long line of great works of art celebrating the big nose (I’m thinking Pinnochio, Life of Brian here) so naturally I felt at home! A feeling that was re-enforced when I discovered a stall in the foyer selling the retro style shirts that I’m rather partial too.

[Back at the Cottage I was wearing one such floral shirt. We’d been debating about whether or not to bring the performance back inside when I declared ‘ o this is nothing back in Yorkshire we’d be playing cricket in this’. Quick as a flash one of the Clare team retorted ‘not in a shirt like that you wouldn’t’ . There was no coming back from that!]

Needless to say Mods and Rockers went down a storm. Have a look at the #modsandrox twitter stream and you’ll see some great feedback! You can also read Andrew Clarke (@artyclarkey) review here .

Talking of reviews I’ve started posting my Edinburgh notebooks (somewhat belatedly) on the blog. Ross Sutherland’s Comedian Dies in the middle of a joke and jazzer Louis Durra are already up and there will be more to come this week. I might even get to write up Almedia Theatre’s King Lear with its violent, angry and ferocious central performance from Jonathan Pryce. You couldn’t get a greater contrast to mods and rockers – and with the exception of mine (obviously) there wasn’t a floral shirt in sight!

O and if you can’t get to see The Long Life and Great Good Fortune of John Clare tomorrow don’t worry. We’re reviving the play in Spring for our rural tour (Feb-May 2013) which we’re booking now! If you’d like the company to visit your community hall or space then please do get in contact – matthew@easternangles.co.uk

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