2008 was a year for dancing and theatre and youngsters, with school workshops from the Rudes, a trip to London with some of the older Youth Club members, and two touring theatre troupes…
Strictly Crowhurst Dancing – Feb 2008
Over two weekends in February there was an opportunity to sample a little ballroom and jive dancing under expert tuition, and on the last evening to try out the steps at a supper and dance.
On the first Saturday, Alex introduced us to the rhythm foxtrot, cha cha cha and waltz and the following week Gypsy John and his partner gave us a sample of the Lindy Hop jive.
On the first day, with patience and careful repetition we gradually became proficient in the steps and then we had to grasp the ‘ballroom hold’ and do the steps as a couple.
After a short break, we tackled the waltz. This is the ‘one, two, three’ step that so many of us think we know. Going in a straight line down the dance floor is relatively easy, it’s the corners that are the problem! However, after a few strange manoeuvres and a bit of feet shuffling, it is possible to do a right angle turn that enables you to head off along the next length.
With time fast disappearing, we took a short lunch break and then began the cha cha cha. We had such fun learning this, trying to master a turn and a promenade! The lessons were over all too soon.
For the second Saturday, Gypsy John began a potted history of the Lindy Hop, a dance that emanated from the Charleston. Its name apparently being coined following Lindenburg’s flight, or ‘hop’, across the Atlantic.
For the evening dance, the hall was decorated with hearts and a glitter ball, and a clear space to put into practice all the dances we had been learning. The supper buffet was delicious and while we ate, Alex and partner gave a demonstration of how the dancing should be done! Everyone was willing to get up and have a go at all the dances and no one had any cause to be embarrassed at all – we were all in the same boat!
– article by Nicola Stell, originally printed in Crowhurst News March 2008
Youth Club Comic Book – May 2008
The Arty Farties funded a comic book project for members of Crowhurst Youth Club. This included booking a professional local graphic artist to help the youngsters begin their work, and then printing the comic so that everyone had a copy to take home.
The comic strips ranged from funny to poignant, bizarre to surreal. And one very salutary story about road safety…
The Rudes – Noah Babel’s Ark – 11 July 2008
It seemed rural normality had returned to our village on an evening typical of the summer of 2008.
Cricket was being played on the green, watched over by a returning Jonny Saunders from the boundary and Pete Linfield from the pavilion roof. A warm, watery sun shone from a blue sky but with the ominous threat of a serious downpour lurking over Beachy Head to the south west. Beyond the boundary stood a flexible fence, a couple of tents, a tatty old truck and a makeshift stage. The incredibly popular, unmissable Rude Mechanical Theatre Company had returned to Crowhurst and villagers turned up in numbers with their folding chairs, hampers and cold bags to see them (the older, wiser stalwarts ensconcing themselves under a makeshift marquee, a new innovation this year, and a sensible move considering the arrival of the aforementioned downpour!).
So what makes The Rudes so special? They use a style of theatre known as commedia dell’arte, an acting style that involves large comic and often acrobatic movement. The actors all have Pedrolino style white faces using pantomime blanche and bright coloured, vibrant ‘cartoonised’ costumes. Storylines in the past have varied from The American Goldrush to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, and this years offering Noah Babel’s Ark sounded as if the target audience should have been children. Despite the title however, the play was more suited to an adult audience or at least one alert to the implications of anti-semitism in early 20th Century Europe.
It related the trials of a hardworking Polish family in the East End of London in the 1920s at the hands of hostile businessmen. If this sounds heavy-going, it was anything but. Employing the broad comedy and exacting physical detail of the commedia tradition, the devised show, directed by Pete Talbot, skipped deftly between tragedy, musical comedy and savage farce at the crack of a set of slapsticks (the sole prop).
Noah Babel was a craftsman who carved the steeds for fairground carousels. His current project was to produce a complete set of lions, giraffes, etc, in biblical pairs. The fee would pay off the mortgage on his workshop-cum-home, already bursting at the seams with howling offspring. But a neighbouring merchant wants Noah out, trying every dirty trick (delivered with cheerful violence by his bone-headed sidekick Stiffleg) to make him give up and return to eastern Europe.
A mix of blank verse, rhyme, standup, song, jazz and klezmer music (all from the same six prodigiously gifted actors) bowl the story along, leaving it to the troupe’s mimetic skills alone to create the carver’s workshop, a local nightclub, the mortgage broker’s office piled high with dusty ledgers, and finally and most spectacularly, the flooded Thames, which brings the villains their comeuppance. And all on an empty patch of grass in the middle of Crowhurst.
Staggering. Can’t wait till next year.
– Ray Nard
Third Party Productions – The Fair Maid of the West – 7 Sept 2008
There are many Crowhurst residents who think that the only things to come from Hastings are unwanted roads and equally unwanted housing developments, but the arrival of Third Party, a Hastings based international touring theatre company, certainly went a long way to dispel these negative perceptions. Third Party specialise in Elizabethan and Jacobean plays and Thomas Heyward’s Fair Maid of the West is a typical pile driving story with a rollicking avalanche of absorbing incident, life threatening sword fights and dazzling derring-do. Fuelled both by testosterone ‘acrobatics’ (sadly a move indoors, due to the inclemency of the summer of 2008, meant the actors promised use of trampettes to make entrances and exits had to be scrapped) and a feminist ethic, Fair Maid celebrates the love of Bess Bridges, a gallant and virtuous barmaid, for Spencer, a privateer-adventurer about to embark for the Azores. Fate, and numerous cliffhangers seek to separate and unite the ardent lovers until true love wins out with the help of some ingenious and often bawdy tricks.
Although Heyward’s potboiler lacks Shakespeare’s lyricism, the tale’s clear cut emotions ring true, thanks to the inexhaustible talent of the seven member ensemble, who used a combination of half masks (papier-mâché rather than the face paints favoured by the Rude Mechanicals) to make the story clear and exciting.
Some really terrific personas were created, no more so than Tota (the discontented Queen of the mythical island of Fez) whose salacious pursuit of Spencer ended with a noisy (and thankfully off stage) ‘reunion’ with her husband.
So, who were the three stars? Well, first of all there was the company itself. It seems unbelievable that such a talented local group, who have been around since 1992 and toured Scotland, the North and West as well as abroad, should be visiting our village – four miles up the road – for the first time.
Secondly, there is Crowhurst Community Arts group and in particular John Spall, who recognised the company’s potential and organised the event – even the last minute switch to the Village Hall; and thirdly there was the audience, the grand folk of Crowhurst, who joined in with great gusto from the first chords of There is a Tavern in the Town to the standing ovation they gave the company at the end.
Let’s hope this becomes an annual event and that next summer, the weather might just match the warmth and vitality of everyone involved.
– Ray Nard