The Mermaid’s Curse was performed last weekend in East Prawle, Devon (Friday 6th and Saturday 7th August) and the week before in Porlock, Somerset (Friday 30th and Saturday 31st July). This project is supported by the National Lottery Fund through the Arts Council England.
SKIPtheatre's Mermaid played by Olivia Chappell. Photographed by Nick Simpson
Ssshhh ssshhh ssshhh sh sh sh ssshhh ssshhhh ssshhh
Daaa daaa daaa dit dit dit daaa daaa daaa
The Mermaid’s Curse by SKIPtheatre
It was with a mixture of trepidation and even a little resentment that I crammed into the village hall at East Prawle last Saturday for SKIPtheatre’s production of The Mermaid’s Curse. My friends and many others were enjoying a sunny evening outside the Pigs Nose pub next door; I am no theatre goer and the prospect of community involvement and audience participation leaves me searching for the shadows. I was there as a sponsor (vegetables for the crew) and to see my daughter who, like many from the area, had become involved in the production to form a cast of musicians and actors varying from a small group of seasoned professionals to a rag tag group of village urchins who had participated in the workshops through the week.
Perhaps the suspiciously murky cider served in this makeshift nineteenth century “Union Inn” aided the transportation but, much to my surprise, I found myself completely gripped and even prompted to leave the security of the shadows to join in. Emerging periodically from this makeshift hostelry we were trooped around the village in groups (I was ushered by a crotchety Mrs Seabass) between scenes; a cliff top gateway where ship wrecked pirates argued over booty, a stone walls where, to a stunning backdrop of the English Channel behind, a siren called ships onto the rocks in the hope of being reunited with her pearls, or huddled into a secret garden where, along with twenty others I surprised myself by sniffing sage and chanting ‘oh secret queen of power at this enchanted hour’ orchestrated by the village mystic Ethel played by Charlotte Croft. Somehow I even found myself participating in a group SOS outside the village’s, now closed second pub. As the play progressed the draw of the pub lessened with each passing until the finale on the village green where the fabulously rakish pirate Nicolo Bezzo, played by Edward Akrout, got his comeuppance as the, audience, (now reunited and considerably enlarged by various hangers on including half a stagg party) cheered enthusiastically. Johnny Depp’s wonderful Jack Sparrow was not a patch on this. No mega budget screen production, however fine, could bring such a diverse group together to share an experience as SKIPtheatre had.
Like many local businesses, barely a day passes without a plea for sponsorship and inevitably most go straight to the bin but I have seldom been prouder than to think this brave production was partly fuelled by Riverford’s Vegetables. Laura, Charlotte and Chloe the three young directors / co-founders of SKIPtheatre and the mostly London based cast spent two weeks under canvas for meagre pay on a cliff top, first in Porlock in North Somerset before coming south to East Prawle in Devon. I salute their bravery and commitment and hope that in these cash strapped times of austerity that we somehow find a way to support them so they can return next year. They are welcome to as many of my vegetables as their thespian digestive systems can tolerate.
Guy Watson, founder of Riverford Organic vegetables and very occasional theatre goer.
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