Last Wednesday saw an inspiring collaboration between Excite, the Poetry’s Society’s Stanza group in Exeter, and Roots Theatre, a group of Drama students who devised their final degree performance especially for the opening day of Topsham Museum’s new season. The Drama students used the Museum’s rooms full of period furniture and artefacts as well as a selection of poems submitted by Excite members to weave together a tense family drama exploring old relationships and class divisions while harbouring a secret …. in which we, the guests, became almost involved as unexpected party guests, waiting with the actors for the arrival of the mysterious Vera. An inventive touch was that half the audience saw one side of the story in two different rooms while the other half saw a different side of the story in two other rooms with the actors swapping places between the scenes.
Here is where I have to admit that four of the poems were actually mine (!) and the actors later explained how they had made use of them and others as a stimulus to both invent the story and to fill out their script. Someone in the audience said it was well-nigh impossible to tell where the script became the poem.
What struck me, apart from the astonishing frisson of hearing my own poem spoken by someone else, was how the poem meant one thing to me but how they had been able to use the poem in a different context. The poems fleshed out and held important moments in the play, for instance Jennie Osborne’s poem Rose Bowl focussed on a poignant insight in the kitchen scene while my The Last Photograph ended the play, showing the close ties between two very different siblings.
I would like to commend the talented students involved – Lili, Katherine, Felicity, Isabel, David and John and wish them well in their futures. Such a brilliant idea and gives much food for thought. I think my own perspective on my writing life has been subtly changed by the insights this has given me for which I am very grateful.
Topsham Museum, by the way, is well worth a visit with its new exhibition on Topsham Families and is, remarkably, free.