We Also Served Promenade Theatre
Posted on by Anita O'Donovan
'We Also Served' Promenade Theatre : Easter Weekend
This year the National Coal Mining Museum for England is commemorating 70 years since the Nationalisation of the coalmining industry with a special exhibition 'By the People, For the People.'
Part of the year-long focus is a commitment to showcasing a series of original events and productions for all our visitors to come together and enjoy, which brings the stories of nationalisation to life.
At Easter Weekend we were absolutely thrilled to welcome Wakefield Theatre Royal youth theatre group 'In On The Act' to the Museum. The group were commissioned to write and perform an original piece of promenade theatre, during which the audience walks around with the actors to really get under the skin of the story.
The plays have been performed at the Museum's Hope Pit site, using the original colliery buildings as a backdrop.
With a healthy injection of Yorkshire humour, audience participation and physical theatre the Museum hopes that the production has engaged visitors of all ages and provided an opportunity to experience live theatre in the Museum's unique and historically important setting.
In On The Act Director Tina Shuker-Bell says a little more about the partnership...
"In On The Act are the young company of the Theatre Royal Wakefield and were tasked with creating an original piece of theatre as part of the celebrations of the Nationalisation of the coal industry.
The project began with the company undertaking research and developing a script from discoveries made, part of that process led to us gaining knowledge of the Bevin Boys. We knew this was to form part of the play, however it wasn't until we were introduced to Harry Parkes that we realised there was a more human story to be told."
Tina continues "This was a huge turning point in the process as we knew that giving the theme a personal story would be the most significant and successful way of reaching audiences.
From this the company set about creating a family friendly show that would not only entertain but educate in such a way that would develop an emotional connection between the characters, specifically Harry the Puppet and those watching."
So how do you think the audience reacted to the play?
"It was very clear that from the first performance to the last that all generations, from 5 years to 90 years were enthralled and engaged in the story. Moreover, the audience discovered a part of the museum that they had not necessarily explored before but lingered beyond the end of the play to talk about their own experiences, feelings and in turn the Memorial Garden.
There was an expectation that there would be 30 per performance but this number was exceeded, with the largest audience slot reaching approximately 70 people.
For the company it was an opportunity to create a moving and inventive piece of work that not only developed their writing and performance skills but also informed them of their local and personal histories."
Do you think the plays have helped bring the story of the Bevin Boys and nationalisation to life?
"The impact of the performance can be simply measured in the laughter, nods of acknowledgement in accuracy and tears that were shed.
History comes to life when it is told through the words and experiences of those who were there, when these are shared in such a manner as We Also Served then you leave the audience wanting more."
Here’s a small selection of lovely things people have had to say so far..
- ”Facts and personal stories expertly presented..A great experience - leave several hours to see it properly and enjoy the high quality drama telling the story of miners and Bevin Boys."
- "Stop reading...Get in your car..Go!...What an amazing place. Educational and jaw dropping. This place is good for all ages. Young...Old...Ancient. It doesn't matter. You're going to like some aspect of it...Actors take you round the buildings and do little plays explaining the running and history of the miners and buildings...My gob was open!"
- "Brilliant place to visit - great Museum exhibits, machinery, underground coal face tours, films, superb history presentation, events etc. Lovely location and super friendly staff. 5*"
The Museum is proud to be commissioning more original events and productions from the local creative community and we have been keen to give them space and creative freedom, with support from our dedicated team.
We strongly believe that this is already leading to some inspiring partnerships and is really bringing the stories of coalmining and all the values of that strong community back to life. The Museum Director Mike Benson comments "this year we are celebrating the optimistic values of work, ambition and welfare. We hope it will spark debate on how to learn from and be inspired by the past".
With heartfelt thanks to
Harry Parkes & The Bevin Boys Association
The Director & Cast of 'In On The Act'
Our friends at Wakefield Theatre Royal
Simon Dewhirst Photography
& the Museum Team
It was so very difficult to make a short film of the highlights as there were so many brilliant scenes. We do hope you will take the time to watch this 10 minute long version.
If you have been inspired to find out more about the story of Bevin Boys our Education Team have put together this short family-friendly factsheet. Or find The Bevin Boys Association online.
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Join us for the next original production 'Pass It On' at Spring Bank - June 2nd to June 4th when the Whispering Wood Folk will be bringing the Pit to life with exciting aerial acrobatics.
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