Shall We Dance

One might have called this year’s Hat Fair a Wet Fair, as it was raining so much. Nevertheless, Ragroof Theatre braved the rain with winning smiles and tongue-in-cheek humour. In front of a traditional bandstand, on a wooden (now rather slippery) dancefloor, an ensemble of nine guided the audience through years of social dancing history, from Charleston to Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and Jive.

The period tunes were mixed with the recorded voices of older people, creating a layered soundscape of memories about long-lost partners, and the rituals of ballroom courtship in yesteryear’s village halls and glitzy ballrooms.

Occasionally, longer sections of text bring us individual stories of small vanities and jealousies, or sad memories of the wallflowers or of the disruption of young love by the ugly wailing of air-raid sirens. Essentially, a danced oral history, the set-pieces supported not only by the sophisticated soundscape, but also by a small cabinet exhibition/installation called the Documentation Booth featuring photographs, sound recordings and video clips collected during the research period.

Although the rain worsened, the company saw it through to the end. The very wet floor curtailed some of the more showy moves in the jive scene, but the company kicked off their shoes and danced barefoot in the puddles. And the audience stayed – huddled under umbrellas.

A very satisfying event. Entrance free, there was not even a busker’s hat around.... but I lift my hat in respect: Chapeau, Ragroof Theatre!
Hartmut Topf | Total Theatre Magazine

The Button Museum

‘It is fascinating to see how with the right skills, companies can tap right into people's lives and capture tiny moments of emotion. There is no distance in this kind of work and no safety nets. Ragroof Theatre's ‘The Button Museum’ is exactly what it says it is – an installation that displays an array of buttons donated by members of the public. But in this case, every button tells a story. You choose a numbered button, locate the related envelope and find out who donated it and perhaps the story behind it. If you want to, you can give your own button or choose one from a selection to add to the museum. Again, it is a very simple idea beautifully executed. Company members wear 1940s clothes and an actor types up the newly donated stories on an old manual typewriter.’
Lyn Gardner | The Guardian

Make Do and Mend

‘The Spiegeltent was at its best when integral to the work. This cannot be better demonstrated than by Ragroof Theatre’s ‘Make Do and Mend’, which transported audiences back in time to a 1940s tea dance. The wooden floor is bought to life by dancers of all ages energetically jiving away to big band music. Just as the audience is getting comfortable with their cuppas, there is an air raid siren. The dancers scatter, and the story begins as a gawky female narrator spills a tin of buttons onto the floor. From these buttons flow a montage of memories, channelled by the six-strong cast. Local people’s reminiscences of living, loving and longing in 1940s Brighton are beautifully evoked through text, movement, gentle comedy and powerful soundscape. Three female performers, gorgeous in pillar box red 40s dresses, seem to totally embody the period as they create exquisite, clear images through elegant gestural choreography. It is difficult to think how else this genuinely poignant piece could be improved. A live band perhaps? Maybe this will happen in Ragroof’s next planned collaboration with older people, a bandstand tour.’
Katie Etheridge | Total Theatre