Keep A Welcome
Age Concern and Suitcase Theatre
- 25th June 2008)
In 2007, Age Concern North East Wales started a reminiscence project
around the memories and experiences of forty evacuees.
It was their aim to find new and responsive way to address the needs
of the older people in our communities, whilst drawing on their rich and
diverse cultural histories. And it seems to me they have definitely succeeded.
With the aid of writer Michael Stevens this project was transformed into
the bi-lingual production of We’ll Keep A Welcome. Both Michael
Stevens and director Robert Fox have long and illustrious careers in both
theatre and education, and while many people set the task of translating
factual memories into a stage play might fail miserably, and come across
as preachy, the writer, director, set designer and actors brought the
fantastic script to life with humour and excellent performances.
A simple timeline between 1939 and 1945 connects the lives of the Wrights
- a Liverpool family - with the Jones and Hughes families in Wales. The
story starts at the Wright home, and follows the journey of their three
children, Jim, Jean and Jack as they are relocated to rural Wales. Tragedy,
love, growing pains and loss thrust the two communities together with
beautiful and painful results.
Many of the Welsh myths are dispelled in this fantastic production,
and the lyrical quality of both Scouse and Welsh is punctuated by humour,
which illuminates the commonalities of both peoples. The timeline keeps
us transfixed and transports us effortlessly between Liverpool, Wales,
London and Berlin.
London introduces us to the notorious William Joyce - better known as
Lord Haw Haw - who fled London for Berlin to follow his fascist sympathies
and his deeply unachievable beliefs. The play throws up numerous questions
that are still as pertinent today. Questions of belonging and belief,
and whether certain attitudes, however ridiculous, should be acceptable
in any ‘civilised society’. The focus of the children's journeys
keeps us riveted to the human story and allows the audience the ability
to experience some of the problems children all over the world still face.
This play is a living history that shines a light on the past and on
modern day society. It is also a must for all ages and all people with
a genuine interest in history, and I hope we see a lot more of Suitcase
Theatre's brilliant production.
And as a final footnote with the BNP on the streets of Liverpool as
recently as last week I can only say plays such as this show the true
futility of ignorance and division and should be welcomed in schools across
Director Robert Fox is currently head of Drama and Theatre Studies at
St Richard Gwynn RC High School, Flint and anyone wishing to gain further
information on future projects may contact him there.