Phil Underwood and the Bonnet and Belt company

I recently came across Phil Underwood, a chap I quickly learned is an excellent singer and musician – but it turns out he’s also a playwright, producer, director and canal enthusiast and runs the Bonnet and Belt theatre company.

A regular production the company puts on is Roses and Castles, a drama for the stage for four actors and one actor/musician that tells the story of the English canals from the 18th century to the present day, through the fortunes of a canal family and their boat across nearly two hundred years.

It’s based on Phil’s experiences as a boatman living on the Grand Union Canal, and features a mix of historical and original songs and music. Look out for future performances, which Phil will list here.

Here’s his song Canals of England, performed with able fiddler and singer Nancy Potts:

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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.