Spirited indeed…. Battleaxe was convinced yesterday was going to be a dreadful day. Racism unleashed across the land, insane pronouncements about ‘freedom’ from Covid restrictions, aka permission to die… and the weather forecast was atrocious. However, it turned out to be excellent despite the underlying grimness. We went to the new Visitor Centre at Rye Harbour – I’ll cover that in another post, and best of all, we went to one of the promenade theatre performance put on by Explore the Arch at Archer Lodge in St Leonard’s. Oh, what a brilliant, uplifting experience.
We have got to know Gail Borrow, the creative director of the company, and Sean Duggan via their last year’s ‘Town Explores a Book’ project, which was about Edward Lear. Sean had contacted us via Hastings Battleaxe/Holman Hunt/Philosopher – I won’t go into details but enough to say that when I saw the current initiative ‘Spirited’ advertised, I said to Philosopher that we needed to go. Now, I think we’d both say that experiental/experimental theatre is not our thing, but nevertheless… and then the weather during the afternoon was unbelievable – thunderstorms, torrential rain… but still, we went. They only took 18 people per performance – it might have been a bit noticeable if we chickened out. So, the rain sort of stopped, and off we went, swathed in waterproofs.
The production was based on the folk tales of medieval writer, Marie de France. Was she the first woman writer – who knows. Three tales had been dramatised, all played in turns to groups of six, in three locations round the outside of the huge old house. The performers were indoors – or on the margins of outdoors, and we looked in – or out. Gail has done a lot of work with puppetry, and the performances involved a lot of unusual things moving about on strings. To say it was surreal and imaginative doesn’t describe it – it was magical, and totally immersive. In a way that was actually quite poignant some bits reminded me of the extraordinary creative outpourings of our autistic grand daughter – a strange, different inside-out world. We didn’t even attempt to understand, or interpret what we saw, but just simply enjoyed.
We joined a maiden (Alice Beadle) playing the violin perched on a stepladder above a swimming pool in the conservatory while she told us about love, and then sat in little tents in a hazel grove while a lady (Alison Cooper) popped in and out of a window in a strange tale about twins having two fathers.
Last, we joined a worthy wife (Erica Smith) by the woodshed, as she told us about her husband who was a werewolf…
Unfortunately, despite me raving on you can’t go and see this – it is all booked up, but when the next Explore the Arch production comes round, Battleaxe would totally recommend.