The average age of Halesworth changes, young things with drain pipe jeans and booties, bright eyes, grace the Thoroughfare, loiter in coffee bars: HIgh Tide is on. ‘Theatre for adventurous audiences’ when actors and playwrights from London town come into our Suffolk lives, enlivening and challenging with rude words and racial themes, edgy and awakening. It’s a well funded project to find new generations of playwrights, now in it’s 7th year, partnered by Edinburgh Fringe, Soho Theatre and the like. We are the experiment.
Finding myself in Halesworth (for one year now), I volunteer for a couple of days and receive in exchange free admission to all that I want. The volunteering is not arduous, the free exchange is bountiful.
BOTTLENECK (by Luke Barns) a vibrant coming of age’ piece, one actor (playing a Liverpool boy of 15, coming from an estate called The Boot), unravels his story from his room, kicking against establishment, school and father (mimicked perfectly). Turns out it’s Hillsborough. Raw energy, life, innocence, hope and let down hope.
A Romeo and Juliet couple from waring families, together trying to make it living the good life in their small holding. The lies divide. The old habit of addiction like the monkey on the shoulder, wins. The couple – now honest to themselves, spiral down in their lives, break up. The ending is ambiguous. She cleaned up, with her child, meets up with him in the smallholding before it’s sold for the closure conversation.
‘There was always a drainage problem with this side of the village. / Why do you always put me down. / Are you taking something. / It’s your fault I’m like this / You deserve addiction.
We have one of the cast staying with us, Craig, so naturally we are hocked in to this play from the start. Without prejudice, this is the best play on at High Tide. The most theatrical, adventurous, colourful, vibrant. It’s in the Print Works, so not over heated and soporific (unlike the Cut some days). A mixed race family, (American), the black husband a college lecturer, the white wife, once a creative writer, now a home mother to a daughter, that kicks out into life. The Crows arrive next door. An archetypal black touring family, dominated by the Big Mama. Gone With The Wind, Jerk Chicken, painted faces white gloves of B&W minstrels, dangling willies, short trousers, all the stereotype you can imagine. Through one of there number (played by Craig) they challenge the mixed race couple, put up a playful mirror to the unsaid, the unresolved. Through one of their number (played by Fiso) he gently opens out the life of the kicking daughter.
Neighbors to Neighbours the sign on the plastic read, directing to Tom’s back door. We had a party. Haven’t had one of those for a good long while, certainly not one that started at 10.30 at night – definitely bedtime these middle age days. We invited the full cast of Neighbours to a post evening performance food and drink. Tom and Juliette played along: of the eight there was only one white (Claire) the rest black, I sheepishly admit somewhat exotic for Halesworth. We started our theatre at Tom and Juliette’s (at 10.30pm), the Caucasian English couple – asparagus spears and crab dip,polite conversation around warming log fire, before continuing at Fairweathers, where Kit and I had cleaned, cooked and sorted a Playlist of classic black music – Armstrong, Motown, Bob Marley. Naturally it had to be Jerk Chicken. They were up for it. Even after the two performances that day, they tucked in, talked easy, sat comfortable, asked questions, laughed and danced. Talk of Africa and origins, Nigeria and Biafra – a distant memory from my non-political past, with images of pop bellied children with flies settling on eyes, the first images of a trouble world out there I can remember. Medicine sans Frontier came out of this disastrous fight for succession. Their different geographies and mixes made sense to me now I had travelled to their countries: Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and I found their own odysseys fascinating. Bed by 4am.
What will we do without High Tide?