Journeymen Theatre demand our attention again.
What a good company Journeymen Theatre is! One play after another opens ours eyes to Quaker issues and demands our attention.
Journeymen recently performed their latest work, And the Beat Goes On….. at a well attended Kingston Quaker Centre. If you weren’t there, eat your heart out – we saw it first (well, second actually, but it felt really fresh and new). Many thanks to the company and to the sponsors, John and Diana Lampen for creating this new mosaic of 400 years of Quaker activism.
This show celebrates the vibrancy, the ingenuity and the courage of Quakers who have chosen NVDA to express their witness. And the Beat Goes On….. showed us how Quakers challenged social and religious conventions from the earliest days of the movement using a range of strategies and methods. Quaker activism in words, in writing and in actions started with the truculent Elizabeth Hooton of Mansfield, the first woman Quaker and George Fox’s mentor. The play moved swiftly to the first days of abolition thinking, showing the conscientious struggles over slavery of early Quakers in Pennsylvania and the passionate challenges of Benjamin Lay, probably the most Eldered friend ever. Benjamin Lay was recently recognised as a pioneer voice for abolition of slavery, with a gift for dramatic actions – which translated well to the stage.
We heard about the Alice Paul’s Silent Sentinels of the USA, formed around 1914, who witnessed silently outside the White House for women’s suffrage despite beatings, imprisonment and torture. Their presence for 6 days every week was a continuous reminder of injustice. After 2 ½ years of witness, women in the USA gained the vote.
The mosaic told us about modern Quaker activists, and their struggles over nuclear weapons, and the UK’s arms trade. Quakers adopted very different methods from the Silent Sentinels. At Faslane there were road blockings, zany Peace Olympics, and criminal damage in the cause of peace.
Pieces about recent actions highlighted local Quaker Sam Walton, and the anti-fracking demonstrations involving mass witness-through-worship in the chilly spaces of Pendle Hill. All these actions that we learned about, whether individual or by a group sprang from Quaker values and become reality as personal witness. Indeed, Journeymen describe their work as ‘theatre of witness’. There are also deeper questions. Lynn Morris speaks the words of the Palestinian Quaker and Peace Activist, Jean Zaru; these words on the nature of pacifism, what it is and definitely what it is not, can shake sensibilities.
The final piece took us to Northern Ireland and the Quaker contribution during the struggles which preceded the Good Friday agreement. The Peace Group’s work in Derry is shown to be down to earth, creative community-building . Quakers’ roles has never been prominently recognised in helping bring about peace there but who cares? The changes happened.
And The Beat Goes On….. is a series of promptings. Just how far is each of us prepared to go in order to ‘oppose that which is legal but clearly wrong’?
So, what will next lead Quakers forward to witness for humanity and love? Anyone’s guess. But I hope we will have Journeymen Theatre there to tell us about it through their vivid works.
You can book And the Beat Goes On…. for your Meeting. They’ll accept donations for their preferred charities and (modest) expenses. Mail firstname.lastname@example.org or use the message form on their website www.journeymenthatre.com
The Bundle – A Review by John Lampen
A BUNDLE OF INSIGHTS
“What is most personal is most universal,” said Carl Jung. We can discover the truth of this in Lynn and Dave Morris’ new play, The Bundle. It follows one woman’s journey from a heartless home and abusive marriage through her escape to Britain, her reception here, and her struggle to get refugee status, and touches our hearts and enlarges our understanding more than pages of statistics. This is a deeply moving and highly professional production, which they researched and wrote. It was commissioned from their company, Journeymen Theatre, by the Quaker Asylum Seeker and Refugee Network.
The play tells the true and unfinished story of a Russian-Chechen woman, though many details have been changed to protect her identity. We first see Adilah as a teenager with her Chechen father and aunt, forced into marriage with a bullying man she doesn’t know. We long for her to escape to safety. Then she qualifies as a lawyer, but this does not free her from the stifling expectations of her culture. When she does save the money to bring her three children secretly to England, with the help of a man she only knows from the internet, it seems her dream is realised. But then we watch her trying to find a way to get through the traps and difficulties our national system has set up for people like her. There is no violence of the sort she knew back home, and she is often treated with courtesy though with few real touches of sympathy; but increasingly I felt that Kafka might have created the maze in which she struggles. The case of the real-life model for Adilah has now gone to appeal. The play leaves us there, not knowing the conclusion to her story. It ends with a passionate plea from Lynn Morris in her own person, saying “We need each other now”.
The play largely tells Adilah’s story step by step. But there are two burlesque episodes, in the style of political caricatures, which take us into the Home Secretary’s office to see the forging of the policies which constrict her. In another scene, the head of a school which is crammed with immigrant children tries to convince a sceptical OFSTED inspector that the success that she is achieving with them far outweighs her failure to reach government learning targets at age five. She is a real person, who told Lynn and Dave, “I break the law every day in this school”. And we are briefly shown an old man at the doctors, pouring out his views about the unfairness which he thinks migrants have brought to this country. These episodes do not tell us what to conclude: as in Shakespeare, we are simply invited to watch what happens and explore our own reactions
There are at least sixteen speaking roles, all strongly characterised, and played by Dave and Lynn with remarkable versatility. They sometimes have to take on two different parts in the same scene; but the story is never hard to follow.
Lynn’s and Dave’s company, Journeymen Theatre, exists to take plays on current issues and Quaker themes to schools, committed groups, communities and Quaker Meetings. Journeymen Theatre responds to invitations to perform, and can be found at www.journeymentheatre.com. If the production comes to your area I recommend you to see it. If not why not invite them yourselves?
John Lampen, Central England Area Meeting.
Also follow this link for a review by arts reviewer, Ron Simpson:
Feeding the Darkness- Reviews
At Britain Yearly Meeting May 28th 2016
An audience of 71 Friends at Yearly Meeting showed enthusiastic appreciation for ‘Feeding the Darkness’ when it was performed at Drayton House on 28th May. The performance was just over one hour long, and was indeed excellent.
Eleven presentations, ‘ministries’, illuminate, in ways that engage the thoughts and emotions of an audience, the difficult subject of torture without recourse to gratuitous displays of violence.
Journeymen Theatre have read and researched widely, selected carefully from significant material and assembled the ‘ministries’ to show for example how enhanced interrogators might be selected, how Lynddie England at Abu Ghraib was affected when she obeyed orders to take part in torture sessions, how ‘misdescription’ may obscure state-sanctioned torture, how victims find it hard to convince officials of their suffering, how manufacturers may profit from an evil trade, how trained medical professionals can be involved, and other scenes.
Journeymen engage us with simple props and surprising music. they mesh cleverly together into a performance of carefully selected themes with strong impact. A comparison with the force and economy of good poetry is, I think, appropriate.
….and at Colwyn Bay Quaker Meeting House on June 5th (part of the Peace Works weekend )
This was the last of the three plays put on by Journeymen Theatre for Conwy County Peace Group and about 25 people came. There was silence at the end while the audience took in the impact of the message and then a thoughtful discussion led by the local Amnesty international secretary. Some of the comments written afterwards show the force of the performance:
- This drama deserves and needs to be seen/experienced widely. It is an extraordinary description of a trade that is pervasive but largely hidden. We all need to find ways to ‘starve the darkness’. thank you.
- These intelligently and movingly written monologues and duologues were very disturbing. Disturbing because they so forcefully made me/us realise the inhumnaity of we humans. And we must face this and own this. The torturer and the victim is me. Bravo for writing and performing such needed works.
- A very moving experience, its simplicity and truth go to both heart and head. We hope this work can continue through us.
- Very absorbing play. Wonderfully written and acted. Should be compulsory viewing for all adults aged 18+. It helps me face and own our inner darkness. We are ‘the other’. thank you both.
- Very effective presentation, without gratuitous detail, of a wide range of torture and inhumane treatment. As always most professional and credible presentation, in tune with Quaker ethos and approach.
- Wonderfully informative for anyone not aware of this awful problem. Congratulations on putting it over so effectively. It must take it out of you! God bless you both.
by Phil Dahl (Edgbaston Meeting)
‘ Thank you to both of you for all that has gone into making Feeding the Darkness yet another powerful production for Journeymen Theatre. Last night’s performance successfully raised all kinds of issues in such a way as to be engaging yet very challenging.
I particularly appreciated the skilful way in which sufficient references were made to specific abominable practices without ever allowing it to be overdone. As I ‘slept on it’ last night, it brought all kinds of concerns and issues to my mind…..thoughts of how power is so regularly and commonly abused. The scripting and sequence of pieces meant that the message came through so convincingly that all torture of any kind or at any time has to be seen as the most unacceptable form of human behaviour, to be objected and resisted in any ways that we can, and, if not, our ‘silence is consent’.
……..I’m sure it will be seen by all Friends as the wake-up call and stimulus to being more active in monitoring, resisting and also exposing and shaming any such practices in or by our own country, as well as elsewhere’
May 15th 2016
Full Ian Flintoff review of first performance of Red Flag over Bermondsey- March 31st 2015
‘This was truly a fantastic performance. I’d like to think with some modesty, that I have the right to say so. I’ve acted onstage for the National Theatre Hamlet (with Daniel Day-Lewis and Judi Dench), also with the RSC, and at the Old Vic for Henry 1Vs, and a lot of telly. Lynn Morris was terrific! A fluent, clear, coherent performance that really knocked me out. And the material, the script, the research, the clarity of the exposition and the urgent relevance of it all to today’s Britain in 2015, really, truly and utterly knocked me out! Congratulations to the power of a hundred! Also, I’ve recently been directing the fantastic Johanne Murdock in Roy Chatfield’s fine play about Shakespeare’s wife-a one-woman show too. It takes a heck of a lot to pull it off, and Lynn (and the production) do-mightily-pull it off (I’d better stop before I run out of eulogies! Just SEE IT, AND SEE IT AGAIN!)
Post It Reviews from Barnstaple Fringe 2015
‘Very powerful and often moving performance that must be seen’
‘Wow! Tears, laughter and I’ve learned something!’
‘This was a superb performance told with passion and flare. Well worth the whole £15 tickets’
‘V well presented-almost inspiring. Active and engaging. I want to know more’
‘Wonderful, Stirring, truly inspiring, beautifully executed. SPLENDID!’
‘Wonderful Drama-‘Ada Salter’ held the room in a tense drama which was powerful and moving’
‘A brilliant one-woman performance. Food for thought. Lovely sound effects too’
‘Wonderful emotional drama-made me cry twice! Amazing Performance’
Barnstaple Fringe Festival Review by George Chapman
‘Red Flag over Bermondsey is a one person narrative which provides the audience with a look into one of the lesser known historical figures: Ada Salter. From the introduction onwards, it was apparent that we, were going to be treated to a very well written and rehearsed theatre piece. We were quickly immersed into the Bermondsey slums and the turbulent changes that were occurring as the insanity of WW1 hit home, as well as the private and intimate moments of Ada’s life, that speak volumes about her character and her personal struggles as a woman with high ambitions.
Now this is generally the point in a review where a few loose threads are tugged upon but honestly there was not a single thing that could have been improved or any area of performance that needed further work. The exposition was executed very well, seamlessly moving from one point in the story to the next, without disrupting the general narrative or the interest that the audience held for Ada Salter.
The props, though used sparingly, were also put to good use in establishing the passage of time and, at one point in the production, were used to show that though Salter was finally being heard, her successes hadn’t changed her ideals. The technical support was also very good with the use of sound effects being important to the immersion of the piece, an aspect that might have spoiled the experience if not been completely in synch. In short, Red Flag over Bermondsey gets a strong recommendation because it does everything right and has exceeded already high expectations.’
Over the Top in Our Schools?
Stroud Quakers present play on the military in education
‘Even on a rainy Tuesday evening, seats at Lansdown Hall were full for Over the Top, a short play by Jouneymen Theatre, and for the talk which followed it. The aim of the programme as a whole, hosted by Stroud Quakers, was to inspire discussion of the current promotion of ‘military values’ in state schools.
Over the Top brought the issues vividly to life, as peace activist and war widow Kathy confronted her son’s head teacher over his determination to co-opt her son into an ‘adventure challenge’ with the army, of the kind now increasingly offered to school students. Dr Roberts is by no means a villain-only a total believer in the benefits of a military influence on his charges. Kathy makes a powerful, often moving plea for us all to understand the dangers of a one-sided view.
There is no slick happy ending to Over the Top. All Kathy’s passion, her bitter experience of bereavement can’t keep her son from exploring his chosen path, egged on by the ‘gung-ho’ headmaster.
Owen Everett’s talk on behalf of the campaign organisation ‘ForcesWatch’, gave the facts behind the fiction of Over the Top. The Armed Forces now make around 11,000 visits to secobdary schools every year, reaching over 650,000 school students with careers events, film showings and outdoor activity days. A 100 new military cadet units have been established, with a further 150 planned at a total cost of £95 million. In glossy new ‘education packs’, the tragedies and horrors of the battlefield are not mentioned. Students are, Owen claims, instead offered a sanitised version of war.
ForcesWatch are not anti-military, according to Owen. Instead, he says ‘We’re talking about balance’.
Lynn as Mary Macarthur
‘There is never any doubt that it is the theatre of the Chainmakers’ that makes our celebration of the 1910 dispute so unique-and your performance is central to the success of the festival’
Alan Weaver TUC
‘….your performance has come in for particular praise. Your speeches captured the imagination of the audience and made the story of Mary Macarthur and the Women Chainmakers’ Strike come to ‘life’ for many visitors.’
Lynn Sinclair Women’s History Curator
Lover of Souls
Marie Noon is moved by a one woman show
‘The love that I bear to the souls of all men
makes me willing to undergo whatsoever can be inflicted’
‘Elizabeth Hooton’s words came to life for me on 21st June in Rugby Meeting House. Lynn Morris’s one woman show, Lover of Souls, opened with her marching into the room to inform us of an injustice that had been committed against her on the way home to Skegby. From that point on the audience was riveted by the passion of this woman. Closely based on Elizabeth’s own writings, and those of her contemporaries, Lynn brought Elizabeth to life brilliantly…………
The audience found the play ‘powerful’, ‘challenging’ and ‘engrossing’, with Friends feeling as if they had been ‘transported to a harder time’ and that ‘Elizabeth Hooton should be better known’. Lynn’s presence was so powerful. She breathed life into Elizabeth, making her a warm and lively woman as well as the first female Quaker preacher and one of the Valiant Sixty. Lynn’s Elizabeth was loud, driven and lit from within. she embodied early Quakerism for me……’
Published in the Friend 26th July 2013
Other reviews include:
‘Lynn kept her audience on the edge of their seats with her passionate portrayal of this intense, heroic, humorous and dedicated Friend, reminding us that we owe the existence of our Society today to the extraordinary conviction and courage of its founders and courage of its founders in the most desperate conditions….’
Review from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013
‘Lover of Souls was the best performance we saw at the Fringe’