Thursday, 1 December 2016

In case you missed it...

We had a fantastic time last week as our Deep Pockets and Dirty Faces project showcased all the work completed so far in two interactive performances. Audiences made up of Together Trust staff, service users and the local community gathered together on the 24th and 25th November to be taken back in time to the nineteenth century. The show included a radio piece, detailing the story of one orphan’s journey from Manchester to Canada and our heritage documentary film, ‘A Journey to Canada’, alongside a live performance.

Boat scene looking towards Canada
The performance space was decked out with a set design to take the audience back in time. This represented the orphan’s ‘journey’ and consisted of a Victorian classroom, boat set and Canadian farming scene (complete with the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre’s cow, Milky White). The live performance centred round these three sets, with the young people acting in each scene. The following describes the performance for those who could not attend. 'Susannah’s Story' can already be viewed here. Next week we will be revealing the documentary film ‘A Journey to Canada’, for all to enjoy.      

Classroom Scene
Scene one
The play opens with the actor (dressed as a Victorian teacher) describing the project ‘Deep Pockets and Dirty Faces’ to the audience. This revealed how the work centred round the history of the charity, the Together Trust and the need to gage interest with those involved. The young people (dressed as Victorian orphans) got up to call out some initial phrases that had been gathered at the beginning of the project, when they were asked what they thought of history:
“Boring”, “for geeks”, “just a load of old buildings”, “nothing to do with me”. 
These were written on a piece of paper and then screwed up and thrown at the actor (as the authority figure). The actor then announced a journey was undertaken to allow history to come to life for the young people, to help them better understand and emphasise with the charity’s social history, through the making of the documentary ‘ A Journey to Canada’.
Showing of ‘A Journey to Canada’.

Scene two
Scene two begins with the creation of Miss Smethurst, a real life housemother from the turn of the century, who was in charge of Rosen Hallas, the Girl’s Emigration Training Home on George Street, Manchester. The audience were told how historical facts were gained from the archive about Miss Smethurst such as her background, how long she worked for the charity and the kind of work she did. From here the character was then created for the actor to perform and the audience were shown differing acting methods learnt by the young people. They decided what her favourite food might have been, what she may have been scared of and what she loved in order to decide how she would move and treat those around her. The actor then came into character and was shown to be strict but loving. She then revealed that a radio play had been created to tell the story of Miss Smethurst and the orphans who had lived at the charity homes in the nineteenth century. The following performance would then revolve around this story, both through the audio journey and live performance.
Showing of part one of ‘Susannah’s Tale’. 

Scene three
Scene three revolved around the classroom set with the young people creating a Victorian style lesson, helped by ‘volunteers’ from the audience. Four of the young people chose members of the audience to enter the school alongside them and be taught by Miss Smethurst. Young people and audience members lined up to have their hands checked by the teacher before entering the classroom, the adults being reprimanded, and the young people praised. They then filed into two separate rows of desks.
Each adult was asked a question by the teacher.
What are translators? Answer - shoes 
What is the cure for whooping cough? Answer - spiders swallowed in butter 
What is stick jaw? Answer - meat and potato 
Who was the hokey pokey man? Answer - Ice cream seller

As the adult failed to answer the question correctly (with many surprised and flummoxed faces), Miss Smethurst directed the question at a young person who answered it correctly. Punishments were then given out to the adults for not doing their homework. These consisted of finger stocks, holding dumb bells, wearing a dunce’s hat and finally being caned (staged behind a large blackboard, with shrieks being heard from the adult).All were then allowed to return to their seats.
Showing of part two of ‘Susannah’s Tale’.
(Being chosen for emigration and journey to Liverpool to set sail for Canada)

In Performance
Scene four
The journey to Canada took place in the centre of the performance space on board the ship. Miss Smethurst described the work undertaken to understand 19th century sailing ship conditions for the emigrants. The young people then acted out ‘rations’, ‘conditions on board’ and ‘first sight of land’. After this they made the journey across the room to Canada.
Showing of part three of ‘Susannah’s Tale’.     
(Life in Canada)

Scene five
Scene five took place in Canada with the young people reading letters describing how they felt, what they smelt, what they hoped for and what they dreamed of for the future. These were answered by Miss Smethurst back in Manchester, relaying her own hopes for ‘her children’ alongside her fears.
Showing of part four of ‘Susannah’s Tale’.  
(what happened to the orphans in Canada, their successes and fears)

The performance finished with the young people being asked again what they thought of history after completing the project. Some of their responses included;
‘helping us to not repeat the same mistakes’, ‘exciting’, ‘helping me understand where I come from’, ‘roots’. 

It's been a fantastic few months of discovery and we've enjoyed every minute! 

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