Whispers of Heaton

Whispers of Heaton saw Heaton Hall open up for a promenade performance remembering the First World War.   Dovetailing two short plays with dance and live music, this production from Feelgood Productions offers a rare opportunity to see inside this Hall, a place that played such an important role in the wars.  It can be tricky to combine spoken word, music and dance in a convincing way, but this performance works really well, and leaves you with important questions and memories.

Towards Heaton Hall

Towards Heaton Hall

The Fight, written by Cathy Crabb/Lindsey Williams, follows soldier Walter (Jon-Paul Bell) from local boxer to shell-shocked victim of the Great War.  Stationed at the Hall, Walter finds identity in the Pals regiments, and his sporting prowess.  Fiancée Minnie (Sophie Coward) and Ann (Elianne Byrne) open up the bigger questions, challenging any notion of it being a ‘good’ war.  As we progress through the Hall, Tangled Dance Company perform the hugely emotive Spilled Ink, supported by cello and voice.  It all adds to a powerful message on the consequences of war.

The Hall itself plays a significant role in this production, the action happening physically inside the rooms, and in memory outside the windows in the camps that would have existed during times of conflict.  The contradiction of the sounds of modern day children playing outside makes this especially moving.

Music Room and Organ

Music Room and Organ

The Unknown Bugler by Peter Kerry offers an alternative viewpoint on the same story.  A fourteen year old bugler goes off to war, driven by duty and heroics, whilst a young woman wants him to stay.  In the same space the wife of composer Vaughan Williams looks back nine years later on the consequences of war.  Is the loss of a bugler greater or less than the loss of a potentially great composer?

Should we remember?  I sometimes feel that we alone amongst all of Europe are starting to forget the wars of the Twentieth Century.  At the end, the audience were asked to leave their thoughts on postcards.  On one, there was a poignant message from a nine year old girl saying that the performance reminded her of her grandfather.  Performances like this are important to enable us to put our history in perspective.

Whispers of Heaton was performed from 26 to 30 May 2016.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

6 Responses to “Whispers of Heaton”

  1. caroline clegg says:

    Thank you Dave. Your reflections are beautiful. I believe we need to tell these stories for all time….

  2. Michelina Gianfrancesco says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your lovely review and agree that the performances enable us to put both history and our modern world into perspective. You’ll be pleased to know that the wars of the Twentieth Century are studied in depth by all our young people at school, not only in their history lessons but cross curricular throughout subjects (The boy in the striped pyjamas, Goodnight Mr Tom, war poetry, war artists etc). There is much being taught and being taught in a way that’s sensitive and ensures children can empathise with all involved rather than looking at a race or group of people with whom they can’t identify with.

    Schools set aside whole days for workshops and reflection on the holocaust and teachers take advice from its survivors on the best methods of teaching this difficult subject. Pupils spend weeks on creative projects at home and are proud of their end result on an aspect of both WW1 and WW2. There are many educational trips to Berlin, the death camps, the WW1 Poppy fields etc. In fact many young people’s knowledge of our wars is better than many adults (including mine!).

    Seeing the actors chatting after the play in their ordinary clothes, reminded me of how young they were too. So Dave, don’t worry that we are starting to forget – it’s quite the opposite. Children are possibly more engaged when learning about these topics now than ever before, it’s truly heartwarming 🙂 🙂

  3. Hi Dave,
    We are performing Whispers of Heaton on Armistice Day – Friday 11th (11am, 3pm and 7pm) and Sat and Remembrance Sunday at 3pm and 7pm.
    I wonder if you do previews and might be able to mention it for us? A trumpeter from the RNCM will be playing the Last Post at 2 mins to 11 (and then before each show) for a fitting act of Remembrance. I understand if you cant, but would be very grateful if you can…. its important to keep telling these stories. With all best wishes

    • QuietManDave says:

      Hi Caroline, I preview each month, but I must have missed this. I’ve sent out a couple of tweets, hope that helps get some attention.

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