Outside the Pioneer Trust HQ an Oyster Smack sits quietly ebbing away, a tree proudly growing from its bow. Her rotting timbers are strangely beautiful. Blistered and broken, you can just about make out her name: Priscilla.
As sad as she looks now she is in fact awaiting restoration. In two short years she will sail again thanks to The Land and Sea project, run by the Trust and funded by the Heritage Lottery fund. As part of the project Eastern Angles will be touring a play throughout East Anglia in Spring 2015 which is loosely inspired by Priscilla, the oyster trade and the James and Stone ship yard in Brightlingsea.
But restoration here is a loose term. The current decaying frame and timbers actually have more chance of finding themselves on stage in the play than they do of finding their way into the new Priscilla. It’s her spirit, her culture, her story which will sail again. Just like the play the new Priscilla will be a kind of fantastic fiction based on fact.
Another fantastic fiction opened this week in London. The new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe is based on plans, blueprints, assumptions and imaginings of what the indoor theatre of Shakespeare’s time must have been like. As Rowan More (Observer Architecture Critic) put it ‘a strange play of authenticity and illusion’ . Writing in The Guardian The Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole said that the theatre provided:-
‘A new narrative about the past….. And with luck that new understanding of The past will help, in a modest way, to push forward to a richer, fuller future’
In her inagural speech the Scottish culture Minister Fiona Hyslop talked about the flexible and fluid connections between our past , present and future. Finding that new narrative and those connections which illuminates the contemporary and the future have always driven Eastern Angles work. In our emerging new vision statement we say:-
‘Condensing big ideas and authentic voices into accessible and entertaining theatre, Eastern Angles welds together the explosive potential of arts and heritage.
Eastern Angles brings together arts and heritage in a fruitful engagement that allows audiences to explore the wider and wilder boundaries of what is perceived as Heritage , and at the same time enriches the fantastic and fictional world of the arts with an important sense of place. As a theatre company we expect heritage to engage as much with the present and the future as with the past encompassing how our audiences live their lives today and tomorrow.’
At the heart of all this is a simple truth. Projects like the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, and the restoration of Priscilla not only preserve and restore but more importantly illuminate, challenge and enhance. And that’s what’s exciting.
To (ever so slightly) misquote Confucious
‘Play the past if you want to define the future’
As Priscilla moves into the boatyard ahead of restoration so the play goes into its first phase of development. The first draft of the script is undergoing a two day workshop on 16 and 17 July. The workshop will conclude with a public reading at 4pm at the Pioneer Sailing Trust, Brightlingsea on 17 July. For further information about the reading contact Eastern Angles.
Oysters is edited, written and directed by Ivan Cutting and will be one of those classic Eastern Angles productions where fiction and documentary authenticity combine to capture the soul of an ancient industry and put its beating heart on the stage.
Oysters iss a tale of sex, bivalve molluscs and marine engineering versus macro economics and the smallest virus known to man, set alongside the River Colne.