A two-phase investigation by Theatre in the Quarter (TQ), Chester, into the creation and production of plays responsive to and rooted in community reminiscence and/or folklore, while appealing to general audiences. TQ creative team: Newall (writer; lyricist), Matt Baker (composer), Russ Tunney (director). Funders: Arts Council England; Chester City Council; Cheshire Rural Touring; Habitats and Hillforts (http://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/microsites/habitats_and_hillforts/discovery/forgotten_fortress_video.aspx).
Newall’s playscripts respond to practitioner/ theorist Mike Pearson’s critical investigations of traces in the landscape of ‘complex articulations of history and place’ (Pearson & Shanks Theatre/Archaeology, 2001: 39). Cultural Capital in Telling Tales (CCITT) scripts explore place, inhabitants and histories discursively and offer findings in fictions that tell truths.
Rooted within named places, Newall approached project research as for ‘site-specific’ artefacts. The production phase saw the realisation of responsive scripts in bespoke performances articulating community concerns around local history (disappearing landscapes; memories and aspirations) and interest in national events (London Olympics 2012). Community participation was paramount: scripts included local choirs as chorus, and the Forgotten Fortress tour included villages closest to historic hillforts on Cheshire’s Sandstone Ridge. Productions toured subsequently across Cheshire and Lancashire; Liverpool Anglican Cathedral; Hampton Court Palace; and Chester Racecourse (attendance: 20,000).
- How might relationships between a palimpsestic landscape/cityscape and its current inhabitants be imagined in ‘responsive’ playscripts?
- In what ways might local participants, audiences, theatre artists and members of the general public benefit from a programme of participatory community theatre projects arising from this investigation?
Phase 1: Responsive scripts foreground archetypes and narrative repetitions, enabling communication of research insights into past-in-present.
Artists must prioritise critical and creative imperatives, while responding to diverse funders and participants (IFTR, 2011)).
Phase 2: Responsive scripts enable production models to accommodate diverse – even contradictory – needs of professionals and amateurs, and create popular forms aesthetically challenging to audiences.