Ours Was the Fen Country (Bristol)
The snippets of interviews are evocative and brilliantly chosen with some great lines – my favourite being “The only person more powerful than Mother Nature is my nan”. The show uses a mixture of simply playing the recorded dialogue but also has the performers miming along to and voicing the transcripts of the collected words. The latter techniques don’t work for me because it seems to dilute what is actually being said and, while admiring how skilfully it is done, it distracts from the actual impact of the words. The collected voices would have made an engrossing radio documentary and left your imagination to fill in the images rather than watching the actors perform them.
The production is most effective when the power of the words is mixed with the company’s robust and beautifully performed interpretive dance moves. From the opening dance representing the labour involved in working the land to the final moving interpretation of the resilience of both man and nature it is clear that Stillhouse works best when using their physicality alongside the authentic voices of The Fens rather than trying to vocally represent those interviewed.
The show though is a poignant reminded of how fragile and precarious it is when man is working against nature and a changing climate. The voices have stayed with me long after the production and are a reminder of a disappearing way of life and the hardy folk who continue to make their living from the land.