Wednesday, 3 September 2008

'Crossings' by julie mcnamara

Work in progress
by julie mcnamara

Directed by Karena Johnson,

With Margo Virginia Cargill, Nadine Wild Palmer and Julie McNamara

BSL Interpreter: Hetty May Bailey

Set & Costume Design: Chris de Wilde

Visuals & Edit: Caglar Kimyoncu

Lighting: Gursen Houssein

Stage Assistants: Alan Clifton & Rory Campbell

It's high storm at Canning Dock. Shelley's on the run again. Baby Mother of a local gang, she's too long in the tooth for sound advice. Shelley finds shelter on an old ship and is transported by two powerful voices from the past calling her to a whole new set of possibilities. One is an escaped African woman from the notorious slave ship, The Zong, the other a man who isn’t all he appears to be.

Cochrane Theatre

The name says a great about this show:
Ships and people crossing the seas to and from Liverpool;
The stories of three women crossing -Shelley the young pregnant girl in contemporary Liverpool sheltering from the storm and hiding from her boyfriend pimp and his posse' in an old ship; Nzingah the woman who was pushed off the slave ship and left to drown who is full and warm with old wisdom and african pride; and Hegarty the Irish woman still trying to give her drowned brother a proper funeral after surviving the crossing to nz by dressing as a man after being raped and to avoid being thrown overboard with all the other women over 40.

The set is simple and very effective - the bow of a ship surrounded by beams suggesting both a skeleton and great strength. Plain canvas sails surround the prow and its slanted wooden deck, providing also a screen for projected images from Nzingah's & Hegarty's stories.

The first woman we meet emerges through the ship and out through images on the canvas back sail. She remains throughout signing and occasionally interacting with the players and there is potential for her to be an even stronger presence possibly visible only to Nzingah, who we don't have to know is blind.

This is the first time in front an audience for this show in development and it already feels very developed. It needs polishing and the technical side needs time to find its precision but its already compelling storytelling and rich with ideas. I'd love to hear what might come from more choral interweaving of the three distinctive accents: liverpool, african & irish. And it would be great if Shelley could also have a song - maybe a rap as she finds her strength to journey forward alone. And Cynthia suggested we see Nzingah come from an image on the back canvas. And Gareth suggested a constant underscore of water sounds [and apparently there is a composer who wants to write a score]. And I think there are some wonderful moments that would easily hold longer: the melodic drumming Nzingah makes with the beams - perhaps even getting a three [or even four] part version later with all the women; and Nzingah's tribal call.

All the women are strong and completely convincing in their characters: Nadine is wonderfully feisty and vulnerable and restless and uncomfortable; Margot is powerful and still and warm; and Julie is dynamic and fluid mercurial. I wonder how it would play if Nzingah & Hegarty used their storytelling more to empower and enliven Shelley rather than reliving again for themselves.
This is a great show that i'd love to see again after it's had more time to grow.

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