Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dark Earth - by Eastern Angles at Flag Fen

On a visit to Flag Fen about six weeks ago, we saw posters for this show, and decided to give it a whirl.  From blistering heat to cold autumn evening - though the hint of chill and the bright moonlit skies added to the atmosphere when we arrived, and when we left the performance tent during the interval. 

Eastern Angles is a touring theatre company founded in 1982 and based in East Anglia, at Ipswich and Peterborough.   They perform in many rural venues, and around Peterborough. The play we watched has a cast of local amateur performers.  

They are performing Dark Earth by Forbes Bramble.   It is set in 1690, with William of Orange and Mary on the throne. A group of landowners and partners employ a Dutch engineer, Jacob de Vriess to drain Oxay Fen and convert it into productive farmland.  Opposition comes from the local villagers, who use the fen for their food and materials for building, and also from the pastor whose fascination with archaeological finds brings him into head-on collision with the orthodoxy of the church.  Against this background personal dramas play out, involving love, money, authoritarian family structures, witchcraft and two deaths.

The outstanding actor was Lucy Formby as Katja de Vriess. Her expert manipulation of the tragic and comic elements of her character was one of the high points of the show.

The sound effects were excellent - particularly the eerie bird calls. Visually it was striking - the puppets of birds, especially an egret, along with a pike, dogs and a hare.  Sound and visuals combined dramatically in the scene where one of the villagers is drowned in the floods.  

The setting itself with the floor space as water, as ice for some enjoyable skating scenes, as well as interiors was imaginatively used and fitted in with the reality outside.  

Sunset over the fens

No comments: