To the William Loveless Hall! [where else?] …on Saturday evening for the second Wivenhoe performance of Private Resistance staged by @easternangles. The World War Two drama is currently touring the region, taking in an impressive fifty venues and some seventy performances through until May. This is true hyperlocal theatre with a professional twist. It is the old impresario spirit of the show coming to town to impress, and then hitting the road shortly after the final curtain.
Private Resistance has very local context to the plot to fit the performance venues. With the five actors portraying a very private war during the 1940 – 1943 period, the storyline is played out around the very same geographical footprint that @eastenangles operates. Harwich, Manningtree and Colchester are all woven into the script. There is a genuine feel for the communities that the play is touring. The attention to hyperlocal detail is impressive.
But what of Wivenhoe, and what of the ‘artistic challenges’ in putting on a play in an old village hall that could have been purpose built for the 1940’s period piece? The stage design and use of space was quite remarkable. This is back to front theatre, with the actors performing to the opposite end where the traditional stage sits. Where Robin Hood was strutting his stuff in the Wivenhoe Pantomime last month is now the upper stalls.
The play itself was a gripping encounter, covering how the personal becomes the political during times of conflict. The storyline has the freedom to speculate around the fictional events of a Nazi invasion of mainland Britain. Somehow five actors playing just six parts were able to marry up this personal struggle with the wider picture of a national crisis.
But perhaps the greatest achievement of Private Resistance is the seamless transition in being able to bring professional theatre to a sleepy North Essex estuary town. We’re not alone, with the forty-nine other East Anglian towns and villages now having the pleasure of the Private Resistance roadshow rolling into the village halls and performance spaces.
The Loveless Hall was hushed throughout the two and a half hour performance. The proximity of the actors to the audience meant that it was impossible not to physically feel part of the performance, and all the terrors that comes with international conflict.
Two sell out performances of Private Resistance took place in Wivenhoe over the weekend. A third show would easily have sold out. Having an established theatre company performing right on your doorstep is an absolute delight. With Moving Image screening Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on the same evening down at the Philip Road Centre, fans of both film and theatrical historical settings were well served.
Walking out of the Loveless Hall and back up the High Street on Saturday evening was another one of those increasingly special Wivenhoe moments. The audience was still buzzing, relative strangers heading back to base and talking about the emotional play that was just played out in their hometown.
Of course the hit and miss hyperlocal blogger left his bloody camera back at the William Loveless Hall [where else?] No worries – a cup of team at home, and then a return to the High Street to pick up the lost property. It was less than half an hour since final curtain, and here were the @easternangles actors scrubbed down, out of make-up and packing up the set, all ready to roll on to the glamour of Margaretting.
Some very recognisable and decent Wivenhoe folk were also helping out. This is what happens when professionals take the time to step away from the big stage and head out to the sticks. The wartime drama of Private Resistance made perfect sense out in the community. Good luck for when the performance pitches up at Creeting St Mary Village Hall…
All audio produced by Matthew Linley, for Radio Wivenhoe.