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Ours Was the Fen Country (tour - Ely, The Maltings)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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East Anglia is a region of much history and even more legends. It has many more cultures and landscapes – one might even say countries – than appear on a map. Still House is a mixed media ensemble using dance theatre, recordings and film to deliver a story. Ours Was the Fen Country is the latest of these, celebrating that partly man-made area of Cambridgeshire.

Still House ensemble
© Paul Blakemore
Over two years some 30 people were interviewed and recorded. Many are descended from generations of fen dwellers who strived, often precariously, to obtain a living from the peat-rich soil or from the waterways bisecting it. But the land is shrinking, both horizontally and vertically, as the peat is exhausted and 21st century methodology takes its place.

Director and choreographer Dan Canham leads the cast as they provide a spoken descant to the interview recordings and echo these again through movement. This has a sort of ritual quality; there are moments when "Le sacré du printemps" with its rhythmic earth-stamping comes to mind. Tilly Webber, Canham, Ian Morgan and Neil Paris are the performers.

Malcolm Rippeth's lighting keeps the stage dark, as befits what we hear and see. Living history isn't always successful as theatre, nor can dance by itself necessarily take the place of verbalisation. This piece has a sense of urgency as well as of nostalgia. The past may indeed be another country, but it's one of which we are all inhabitants.


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