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‘On the Beat’ – stories from 1914-1918

Friday, November 21, 2014

Twisted Events Presents Theatre company and Thorn Grove Primary School’s pupils, working with Bishop’s Stortford Museum recently put on ‘Stories from the Beat’ at Rhodes, as part of the museum’s Hertitage Lottery Funded WW1 police project. The two had been working together to tell the stories of a typical policeman’s beat in Bishop’s Stortford during WWI. After thorough research of the subject matter and relevant issues that were to be presented in the play it was thought that it would be best to divide the evening into two parts: the first half of the performance were three mini stories put on by the children, whilst in the second half Twisted Events interpreted the story of a local conscientious objector.

The process of creating a theatre play is always fascinating, starting with a basic idea and helping the process grow to produce a sophisticated performance; the production of this particular play lay within just 6 weeks of preparation; the children were involved in a busy schedule involving a visit to Duxford Imperial War Museum to gain an understanding of WWI, meetings with professional storytellers and project manager Emma Steed to learn how to interpret documents and construct narratives, as well as talking with some of the exhibition designers who helped create the ‘On the Beat’ gallery at Rhodes and visiting Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies to view some of the original documents, a process that in total took over their curriculum almost completely for 6 weeks.

The final creation was everything that an audience would expect a good play to be. A composition written specifically for the stage, turned into three stories from Stortford’s war time experience and formulated around three core ideas: prisoners of war, billeting and scrumping and, finally, conscientious objectors. It was nicely structured and following a mere four days of very hard work, on the final night the children managed to deliver a great performance, with the public being able to sympathise with the characters and learn about the stories that actually occurred in Stortford, whilst joining in with rousing sing-alongs to songs such as ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning.’

The play was accompanied with a poster and leaflet that specifically addressed the issue of conscientious objectors; the final act involved handing out white feathers that were a traditional symbol of cowardice to the audience.

Now the inevitable question is – would you take a feather from the basket if someone you knew objected to the war?

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Aleksandra Andrijevic




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