Ghostly new play inspired by Titanic distress signal

Friday 7 December 2012, 12:12

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He was the first person in the UK to know the "unsinkable" RMS Titanic was in trouble.

From his makeshift radio workshop at Gelligroes Mill, near Pontllanfraith, amateur radio enthusiast Artie Moore picked up a distress signal from the stricken vessel after it hit an iceberg in the Atlantic on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

He rushed to the local police station but was unable to convince the officers there that what he had heard was real, and official news of the tragedy, which took the lives of more than 1,500 people, did not reach Britain until two days later.

Now, 100 years on, the incredible experience of Mr Moore has inspired a new play about eavesdropping and listening to the voices of the past.

Written by Philip Michell, who also penned Sherman Theatre's children's Christmas show The Snow Tiger, it is being acted by members of Odyssey, the inclusive community theatre group arm of Hijinx Theatre.

The Cardiff-based company prides itself on creating opportunities for people with learning disabilities to enjoy and participate in the arts.

Cast members in rehearsal for Whispers on the Waves. Photo: Ceri Legg Cast members in rehearsal for Whispers on the Waves. Photo: Ceri Legg

I spoke to co-director Gaynor Lougher ahead of the opening night of Whispers on the Waves, which runs until Saturday at the Weston Studio in Cardiff's Wales Millennium Centre.

She said: "The show is about a young couple who have found out they are going to have a baby and don't know what to do about it.

"They discover an old shed full of communication gadgets and magic, meet a lot of ghosts and listen to their stories.

"It's inspired by Artie Moore but is really the result of sessions we held earlier this year with Philip and the cast, exploring stories."

The production features around 35 cast memebers, including children from Meadowbank special school in Cardiff and music students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Gaynor added: "We went into the school in September and did a session working with the staff and children.

"It's a fantastic school and we've been going there about eight years. It's wonderful to see how great drama is for the kids, many of whom have complex needs and language and communication difficulties – it just seems to give them so much confidence.

"The show works very much as an ensemble and it's not about having stars or lead parts."

In rehearsal for Whispers on the Waves. Photo: Ceri Legg In rehearsal for Whispers on the Waves. Photo: Ceri Legg

Gaynor says one of the most enjoyable aspects of her work is seeing how much the actors who have learning disabilities inspire the other members of the group who don't.

"I think as adults we self-censor far too much and become a bit embarrassed by things, whereas many of our cast jump in 100% with so much joy and that encourages everybody else to do the same.

"There is a real energy, rawness and deep joy to what we do."

Whispers on the Waves is at the Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre on 7 December at 7pm, and 8 December at 2.30pm and 7pm.

Tickets are £6 and available to book in person or online from the Wales Millennium Centre ticket office, or over the telephone on 029 2063 6464.

Find out more about Hijinx, follow them on Twitter @HijinxTheatre or on Facebook by searching Hijinx Theatre.

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