DEVISING HAPPY HIGHWAYS
February 10th 2021
Participants: Claire Edwards, Gilly Blaydon, Gill Scott, Lucy Edkins, Kate Sargent, Paul Fulton, David Brett, Michael and Sonia Lawrence, Richard Sylvester, Julie and Bernie Madden, Phil Byrne, Suzy Phillips, Alison Mackenzie, Jon Oram, Becca Maher.
NOTES ON DEVISING SESSION "STORIES"
Jon talked about reaching out perhaps further than the play to different groups in the village by sharing stories and perhaps displaying them at shop counters, shop windows, delivering fliers getting stories into Rusthall Life etc. Suzie talked about the quirky tree they had at the RCA festival in 2017 people hung items and poems. Sonia spoke of a man called Arthur Tribe who lived at 15 Rusthall Road and died in 1961 aged 90. He had lived in the village all of his life and he loved the common. There is one particularly moving poem written when he was posted in North Africa during the First World War where he described memories of Happy Valley keeping him going. Sonia has since sent in the poem about Happy Valley.
Jon introduced the purpose of the session buy talking about the power and purpose of stories, why where and when do people tell stories? What situations encourage story telly? How might we deliver stories in the play; What situations can we set or recreate, from bedtime stories to Speakers Corner? Jon mentioned the communal bath is potentially where people would tell stories to each other. People would come here for health reasons, not unlike pilgrims to Lourdes. Michael had set some atmospheric picture of the baths. He sent another this week building on the idea of it being a story telling station. Sonia said that her son had excavated the baths several years ago down to the tiles, it wasn’t very big. They then filled it in again.
GROUP 1 Bec, Suzie, Julie
Grandparents passing down stories, sitting on laps. Imaginary friends. Folk tales, songs, rounds, ghost stories, stories around the fire; bonfires elicit story-telling and singing. There’s reminiscing, night and fire, sounds, smells. Morale tales, Victorian Struwel Peter, Johnny-Head -In - Air didn’t look where he was going so walked over a cliff. Matilda and the matches if you cry wolf (Matlida gets burnt to death). Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Grimm brothers travelled all over Germany to collect and preserve traditional tales. Fairy stories portrayed females in a particular way ie: goodness and beauty go together, Cinderella and the ugly sisters, she will be rescued by a knight in shining armour. Giving messages to girls on how they ought to be, conditioning women, propaganda. Greek myths and legends, The Odyssey, men are heroes.
GROUP 2 Lucy, Gill, Sally
When, Where Why?
WHEN: bedtime stories, one on one, comforting, fiction and real life memories. Around a table; eating, drinking, Bonfire; stories through song, walking with a friend through lockdown meaningful conversations.
WHY: Sharing memories, making sense of our past, connecting, sharing, bonding. Draw from memories. Draw inspiration from emotions, does it have to have structure? Can be spontaneous don’t have to go anywhere. Story cubes, pieces of paper with prompts.
WHAT makes a story? It has to have emotional content.
GROUP 3 Kate, Gilly Bernie
We tell stories when we have time. More time in lockdown. When travelling, train journeys, exchanging stories, getting to know people. Confession in crisis, truth. Lies/showing off. Telling untruths. Fake news, political narratives. Unintended consequences of stories. Families have different stories/different versions of events. Excluding and including information.
GROUP 4 Alison, David, Michael, Sonia
Dark winter nights, passing on stories, campfires, bringing people together. Sharing stories. Pubs, the more you drink the more outrageous. Sailors yarns, soldier’s self-glorification, heroism. Children want the same story over and over again. Familiarity is safe. Stories of your past become more important as you age, Stories keep people alive who are no longer here.
Super- heroes used to be Gods now they’re Spider man, Superman. Folk stories, fairy stories, children want frightening stories. Eastenders/Archers/Shakespeare. Does it have to resolve? There are a limited number of basic stories.
GROUP 5 Paul, Claire, Richard, Jon
Stories inspired by College/family reunions. Stories develop into gossip. Future stories, fortune tellers. Churches/religion hopes and fears for future. Folk songs, letter writing. Dog walkers exchange stories about their dogs. First dates, interviews, interrogations. Hospital beds.
Invisible Theatre – rehearsed / improvised scenarios happen spontaneously on trains, busses in the street; the audience don’t know it’s been prepared.
Alison/ Belgian refugees Mayor and mayoress from a village outside Antwerp came to Tunbridge Wells with their extended family in 1914. They lived in Nevill Park and decided to come here as she liked Thackeray. They walked in Happy Valley. Both died in 2015 and there was a huge funeral as they were so well respected.
Looking at ancestry, who do you think you are? Reciting in military costume?
Phil talked was asked about Chimney Sweeps, they supposed to be good luck at weddings. Story is that King George was on his way to a wedding when one of his horses got spooked and a chimney sweep saved his life so they became a lucky symbol. The Queen and Prince Philip had a chimney sweep at their wedding.
The idea of story cubes was put forward.
Jon wondered about situations when we would be less likely to tell stories – short bus and train rides, in an elevator, just approaching someone in the street – this would feel weird. Situations that encourage stories – interviews, interrogations, First Dates,
`Gossip and Chinese whispers, telling tales out of school (splitting). Somebody mentioned imaginary friends.
The idea of Travelling theatre groups was added to the mix.