If you missed it – honestly – you missed out !
Friday 28th – Saturday 29th October brought us two perfect nights of enthusiasm, collaboration and wonderment.
With more than 70 people involved in the cast and production team, including visitors from Poland, France, Romania and Norway who were all part of a European partnership project with b arts exploring lantern making skills and community arts capabilities within community development.
The Harvest audience were treated to a wonderful landscape of specially lit-up spaces lanterns a portable fire structures.
The beauty of the knitted tree with its sparkling orbs was a creation that made people want to stand in the park and just …look. It was serene – in fact it was literally the quiet before the storm.
At night it looked stunning as the lights changes colour, it was like Christmas had come early and been totally outdone by Autumn. In the daytime it was fascinating to study the detail – reading the wishes and aspirations written inside the paper orbs and admire the knitted and crocheted cosy adorning trunk. This was created by Rachel Grant and participants from the knitting fraternity, the Observatory, local school children and parents.
The storm in question was the actual performance inside the marquee tent.
The audience met the lead character KORB – the King of the Runner Beans, and his children. His three wonderful children – all desperate to have their share of the inheritance, or to grind an axe about how they felt since their mum had died, not thinking how dad might feel. The story played on the themes of King Lear (see Shakespeare) and incorporated all the work created by the community groups, schools and participants in the Growing Hearts and Mind residencies during Autumn.
There was a moment when the audience were forced to confront the fragility of mental health and how situations that create mental illness and the events that we find ourselves thrown into sometimes – can be our downfall. As was shown with KORB, the final straw, the blow-out , the breakdown, the snapping point – can often be brought on by a series of events throughout our lives that culminate. Without considering the enormity of the consequences – we can spiral into mental illness and the world we know can fall apart. In our story KORB had brought out a loving family with many happy memories to tide him over through the twilight years. After having lost his wife years before and becoming older, the centre of this life was now was his allotment, his faithful dog and his three children.
Life was again dealing KORB another card , he felt that the allotment was getting too much to cope with and he wanted to hand the land on to his children, but could they prove to him that it would be kept in good hands. He had standards, he had years of knowledge and experience that he was willing to share with them to make sure it was still a successful allotment, but most importantly the memories of the place and the fruits of his labor were more valuable than the price of the land.
Neither KORB or the audience were prepared for the backlash from his three competitive children and feeling overwhelmed by their greed and thoughtlessness – he felt despair, he felt vulnerable, lost and alone, isolated – the storm took hold.
It was a very powerful and extraordinary performance from all the cast, the musicians ( led by Growing Hearts and Minds artist Aidan Jolly) choir - who all created an amazing energy in the tented space – set in the darkness of the park, flanked on all sides by houses and people going about their ordinary lives in Stoke on Trent – very ordinary place.
The performance held very moving scenes during the breakdown of KORB, yet there were also plenty of laughs and audience interaction to keep us moving along throughout the story… including dancing, a swarm of lantern bees, burning kilns, naive handmade cups and rustic ceramic platters – serving homemade bread, hearty food and a heart-warming celebratory toast by the outdoor fire.
The ceramics and wooden table were part of the residency delivered by Martin Brockman and also included workshops at the British Ceramics Biennial during the lead up period of the project. The performance was well publicised thanks to the local resident associations, social networking, local radio and the organisations involved in the project.