Did you know? Boat building on stage, with sex

Oysters poster

The astonishingly enterprising folks at the Pioneer Sailing Trust at Brightlingsea have commissioned a touring play about the oyster trade, and boat building. Well, it’s one way to make sure people know the story of Brightlingsea’s oyster trade, and probably a good one as it will reach new audiences and get newspaper coverage.

One I saw suggested that boat building itself is about to become sexy. Well it is already, of course!

My thanks to Paul Quarry for letting me know about this – I’ve no doubt it will be illuminating as well as entertaining. I wonder whether it will be coming our way. Read more about it on the website of the theatre company currently performing the show, Eastern Angles, including some reviews.

Here’s what the trust says about it:

“A tale of sex, boat-building and bivalve molluscs”

Oysters is a new touring theatre production from Eastern Angles.
This play will tour the East of England from March 11th – June 6th
It is sponsored by Ipswich Building Society & Abellio Greater Anglia
Oysters is written and directed by Eastern Angles’ Artistic Director,
Ivan Cutting. Combining local fact and contemporary storytelling, this new play captures the soul of an ancient East Anglian industry, celebrating and preserving the past by putting in on stage.
Focusing on the restoration of an Essex Oyster Smack, the show incorporates oral history accounts of boatbuilding and Oyster cultivation with the fictional story of an Essex boat builder and his intriguing family back-story.

The main character, Mo has just turned fifty and is busy restoring an oyster dredger recovered from an Essex riverbed. Helping him bring the boat back to life is Angie, a young apprentice with chip on her shoulder. Also in the frame are Kasey an intern from the local university, Pamela the formidable fundraiser in charge of the restoration project and the mystical Pearl, an ‘Earth Mother’ with a potent story to tell. When a piece of Mo’s beloved dredger goes missing their lives are up-ended and the past floats to the surface.

Oysters has been researched and developed as part of the Pioneer Sailing Trust Land and Sea project, which is focused on restoring the 1893 Oyster Smack Priscilla.

Eastern Angles are known for creating theatre work with a local flavour. Ivan Cutting’s previous maritime-related shows include When The Boats Came In(about the Lowestoft fishing industry) and Beyond The Breakers (about East Coast Lifeboat service). He also directed the Arthur Ransome adaptation We Didn’t Mean to Go To Sea and Up Out o’ The Sea.

Oysters will tour the East of England from March 11th – June 6th. It will be performed at the Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich from Monday 20th April – Saturday 25th April with a free pre-show talk on Monday 20th 7pm – 7.30pm.

Eastern Angles will also take the show to the Pioneer Sailing Trust’s headquarters in Brightlingsea for a three-day residency on the 7th, 8th and 9thMay. Friday night will be a special £15 a ticket Gala performance including complimentary pre-show drinks and an introductory talk whilst Saturday’s shows will be part of a full day of PST activities and wraparound events.

 

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Christmas 12th Night celebrations on the River Thames with the Lion’s Part

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The Holly Man arrives and addresses the crown outside the Globe Theatre on
London’s South Bank. As usual, click on the thumbnails for larger photos

We travelled to the South Bank of the River Thames in London today to see the Holly Man land from a Thames waterman’s cutter and the doughty Lion’s Part perform their carols and Mumming Play. I didn’t get the name of the boat type correct to begin with – so thanks to Chris Partridge for his comment below.

I brought along my fiddle to lend a hand with the music, but by golly it was cold for a fiddler’s fingers. Julie meanwhile took these photos despite the considerable crowd.

The play was as topical and amusing as one could wish, and The Lion’s Part’s troupe of professional actors includes some very sharp performers. I was particularly impressed with their Doctor – the Doctor in these plays always has the best part, but this particular one seemed to have been born to play it.

See  similar intheboatshed.net post from last year: https://intheboatshed.net/?p=276


play

turkish-knight playing

The play in progress; the Turkish Knight; musicians and crowd

Time to wet your whistle and let out a song

Tonight, I think it’s about time we had some music on the intheboatshed blog. Boating isn’t just about boats and sheds, boatbuilding or restoration, or even about navigating your boat – it’s also about a rich tapestry of personalities and culture.So tonight we have sea songs from my old friend Keith Kendrick. I hope Keith won’t mind when I say that with his dangerous smile he has something piratical about him and that when he sings with his concertina, he looks every inch everyone’s idea of the old fashioned sailor man. I’m sure he won’t mind when I say he’s a great singer of sea songs, as the MP3s I’m posting tonight will prove.

Ironically, Keith is a land-lubber by birth, originally hailing from the English county of Derbyshire and still living there today. Despite this, he did live on the East Kent coast for eight years where he was able to nurture more effectively an already strong leaning towards all things maritime. He has a long established and well documented history of performing and recording all kinds of music of the sea worldwide both solo and with various collaborations over forty years!

Keith is clearly passion-driven in his performance of sea shanties, fore-bitters and various other maritime related material including dance tunes on the English and Anglo concertinas.

He draws his influence from the old sailors and source singers of the material like: Stan Hugill (the last real shanty man), Bob Roberts and Cyril Tawney to name just three.

All of these three great singing heroes are now sadly gone and singers who have really studied their singing styles and songs, such as Keith, play an important role in carrying their legacy forward.

Listen in particular for the breaks and turns in his voice in the shanty set, for example – they’re one of the keys to real shanty singing.

Here are two tracks from his latest CD on the Wildgoose label Songs from the Derbyshire Coast. The first is the shanty Bold Riley (I’ve read somewhere that it’s a halyard shanty) and a set of three shanties, A Hundred Years Ago, Essiquibo River, and Rolling Down the Bay to Juliana. The files will take a moment to download but I can assure you that they’re well worth the short wait – this is shanty singing with real class.

Bold Riley is a windlass shanty that started life making the sugar run from the West Indies to the UK. Who ‘Riley’ was, unfortunately, is anybody’s guess.

A Hundred Years Ago is to one of two melodies commonly associated with this halyard Shanty from the USA – the other one is English in origin and both can be found in Stan Hugill’s seminal book, ‘Shanties From The Seven Seas’. Two other shanties: ‘A Long Time Ago’ and ‘Leave Her Johnny Leave Her’, share the same metre and are likely its two closest relatives.

The name of the Essiquibo River gives away the West Indian origins of this song – it would likely have been used originally inland for heavy shifting work and would have been lead by a Negro ‘shantyman’ eventually finding it’s inevitable way to sea where it’s use would need little adaptation. I take this at a slightly faster lick than it would have been sung in a working context.

Among the shanty set, I guess Rolling Down the Bay to Juliana, sometimes called Emma, is probably the least well known. It’s nevertheless one of the best halyard shanties around, and Keith tells me he believes it was collected in the early 1950s by folklorist A L Lloyd from ex-sailor Ted Howard. Ted, it is said, was on his death bed in a sailors’ hospital surrounded by all his shipmates when he sang this to Mr Lloyd. Apparently, his dying words were ‘Strike up South Australia and let me die happy!’

Bold Riley

Shanty set

Songs from the Derbyshire coast is available here:
http://www.guestlistwebarts.co.uk/eyup/cds.htm

More songs from Keith and friends:
https://intheboatshed.net/?p=78

A song from me:
https://intheboatshed.net/?p=609

Keith Kendrick, singer of sea songs and concertina player

Photo by Andrew D C Basford (2006)