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You are in: Tyne > Entertainment > Entertainment features > The Beautiful Journey

Man diving into the sea

The performance will be by the Tyne

The Beautiful Journey

The memories of Tyneside residents are playing a big role in an ambitious outdoor performance on the banks of the Tyne.

The memories and life stories of people living in Wallsend and Hebburn have helped to shape an ambitious outdoor theatre work being staged on Tyneside in July and August.

The Beautiful Journey has been produced by Cornwall-based landscape theatre company Wildworks and envisages a future when the icecaps have melted and the audience are living in the last place on Earth.

Ship building in the 1960s. Image John Bage

Residents talked about their shipbuilding memories

It will be performed in several cities in the UK and Europe over a three-year period but unlike a conventional theatre tour the individual productions will vary greatly.

Each one will draw on the memories and stories of the people living in that particular place and incorporate local performers and crafts-people, making it unique to that location.

"They inform so much of the content of the show it's like we enter a different world every time," explained Wildworks performance director Nicola Rosewarne.

Shipbuilding communities

The overarching story common to all the productions draws on some of the themes of climate change.

Director of Wildworks, Bill Mitchell, said: "Our conceit is that the bit of land we're on is the last bit that's left and everything else is flooded.

"What happens next? What happens to humanity when they're in that situation, given that there's no fuel, no this or that? What happens then?

"We're having some really good guesses at what the future might be like and trying to give people an experience of it."

"We try and get some sense of what their memories and values are and invite them into the show in some way."

Bill Mitchell

To develop the north-east version of the show the Wildworks team worked with residents and schoolchildren in Wallsend and Hebburn.

They found out about the history of the two shipbuilding communities and heard how people feel about the decline of the industry.

"What we try to do is over a period of time get to the heart of a community," Bill said.

"We try and get some sense of what their memories and values are and invite them into the show in some way."

People's memories might inspire new characters or storylines, for example, or their photographs and objects might be used as props in the show.

Or people's skills might be utilised more directly - for example they looked to recruit beekeepers, hairdressers, singers and boat builders to help with the Tyneside production.

"We don't put them on the spot, we don't get them to act, but they are performing... we can build their skills into the show and that becomes part of the performance," Bill said.

Sense of loss

The iconic Swan Hunter cranes were transported away from the River Tyne while the Wildworks team were doing their preparatory work in Wallsend in April 2009 and Bill said the sense of loss many local residents expressed made it into the Tyneside version of The Beautiful Journey.

So did the empty feeling after launching a ship that a number of former shipbuilders described to the team.

Swan Hunter cranes on floating dock on River Tyne

Feelings about the loss of the cranes will feature

And the feelings of one particular couple became central to the story.

Bill explained: "We talked to one couple about their relationship to the sea and the man who was in the Merchant Navy said 'I love it, it's everything to me'. His wife said 'I hate it, I'm jealous of it'. And that's absolutely right in the centre of the show.

"There will be a man making a boat and he makes one every day but at the end of the day, because he's very attached to his woman, he cuts the boat free again and he doesn't go.

"When you hear those things they haunt you and then you can start making a piece of work."

The Beautiful Journey will be performed on the banks of the River Tyne in Wallsend from Tuesday 28 July to Saturday 8 August 2009.

It is a promenade performance with breaks where the audience can wander round and discover aspects of the story for themselves, have their tarot cards read and maybe even have their hair done!

Tickets are available from The Customs House in South Shields.

For more information visit the Wildworks website:

last updated: 03/08/2009 at 09:03
created: 16/04/2009

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