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 www.totaltheatre.org.uk