Writer: Wassail Theatre Company
Director: Jesse Briton
Reviewer: Julia Beasley
The action takes place in a fictional Somerset village but is based on real-life events – the flooding of the Somerset levels during the winter of 2013-14.
Outside, the flood waters are rising at an alarming rate, blocking roads and swamping homes. Inside the village hall, a cast of disparate characters is thrown together during the environmental crisis, with dramatic results.
Wassail Theatre Company, a charity based in Somerset, has done a wonderful job in developing this community-based play. Part of Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment initiative to support community artists, this is a polished piece of theatre that makes for a surprisingly hilarious and highly engaging evening.
Emotions run high and accusations fly amongst the characters, not least toward the representative of the Environmental Agency who is also trapped in the village hall lock-in. Would the village be flooded at all if the Environment Agency (EA) had done its job and properly dredged the rivers? The question still hangs in the air, unanswered.
The Loco Klub in Bristol’s Temple Meads makes a suitably radical venue for experimental theatre in the round. The performance involves the audience throughout, as biscuits and blankets are handed around and there’s even a participative boxercise session. Those who want to can join in – while the rest of the audience just sits back and enjoys the experience.
But the serious and sad heart of this play is the rural poor who feel completely abandoned by the outside world. In their watery grave, there is no phone signal, no help from the authorities. People are refugees in their own country. Can they reclaim their land, their lives, their community and their sense of self?
Credit goes to Wassail for dramatising an important social and political issue with such a light touch. Bristol is the richer for this humorous and ultimately life-affirming performance.
Touring regionally | Image: Contributed