…and not just food!
Written by Maya Pieris
Plays and poetry, in playwright David Edgar’s opinion, are natural bedfellows and I would agree, as for this article I’m deserting my preferred area of poetry for plays, in particular the community play. And where I live we are not short of excellent examples.
Having just been at a NODA awards dinner, where the Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis, won a regional award for its 2016 community production of The Tempest of Lyme, I’d say the am-dram world is very much alive and high kicking! The community play owes a debt to Ann Jellicoe, actor, writer and director, who inspired the community play concept in London before moving to Lyme Regis with her artist husband Roger Mayne. For Jellicoe, the community play had to be the result of a long period of research with the chosen community in order to artistically embed the subject matter of the play, with the people who were to perform it and in the location. And the female perspective is often central, as in her play Western Women, which looked at the role of women in the Siege of Lyme during the Civil War.
At this very moment, cast members from Dorchester to Lyme taking in Bridport on the way are at some stage in production for three community plays, a scene no doubt repeated around the country. The Lyme Regis and Dorchester plays are using community histories as their starting points. For Lyme’s Marine Theatre this is to be the Monmouth Rebellion, a pivotal period in West Country history especially in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, and one which still lingers in folk memory and in place names. A lot of scene setting is being done beforehand, both for the theatre community and the potential audience through talks, workshops and other theatre-based events which allow funds to be raised as well as raising a wider awareness of the play. And the local press are helping to get the town in the “mood” by running a series of food related columns devoted to 17th century recipes! The Bridport play has taken as its story the idea of a flea circus led by Madame Celine and has ukuleles at the musical heart showing how varied the subject matter can be for a community play but all sharing community as the starting point.
For more information about these three community plays look on their websites. And come to all if you can!