Review by David Upton
In its time, Morecambe Bay has seen drama, tragedy, artistry and not a few spectacular sunsets.
Bundle all these aspects together into a one-hour dance performance and you have the essence of this breathtakingly beautiful production played out on the grassland between Silverdale village and its shoreline.
It’s the creation of Lancaster-based choreographer Jenny Reeves, from the city’s About Time dance company, and choreology student Ellen Jeffrey. They have marshalled seven professional dancers, and 14 local participants, for just three performances of a dance piece that is part of Morecambe Bay Partnership’s current series of arts events.
The rolling hillocks of The Lots open space become their stage; the bay beyond, and Lakeland hills, form a backdrop; and lighting design is provided by a slowly setting sun. It’s the same scenery that captivated 19th century worthies such as Elizabeth Gaskell, or artists William Turner, and his contemporary David Cox, and it is the latter’s work—often peopled by the local inhabitants—that inspires Longways / Crosswise.
The all-female cast play out, in movement and verse, the lives of the cockle pickers and their daily battle with the elements, and subsistence. Jenny Reeves and Ellen Jeffrey, holding the laurel fronds that have been used by Bay guides down the centuries, pilot audiences of around 80 over the grassland. The natural contours reflect the changing shapes amidst the sands and tide, as performers dip below the eye-line, or are silhouetted against the sunset, before trudging home in a free-flowing lockstep.
The words of Eileen Pun’s poetry tend to whistle away on the wind and are best appreciated read at the Gaskell Memorial Hall in Silverdale which acts as the base for the performance.
Katie Duxbury’s authentic costumes, Lee Affen’s haunting music and fiddle player Jane Lawrence’s lively contributions enhanced a performance that will live long in the memory of a fortunate few.
Oh, and whoever supplied those setting sun light effects deserves the highest praise!
Performers: Lucy Starkey, Aimee Williamson, Helen Gould, Louise Gibbons, Grace Turner, Celeste Chadwick, Anna James & Jane Lawrence (fiddle) & a cast of 16 local community dancers
Costume Design: Katie Duxbury
Composition: Lee Affen
Writing: Eileen Punn
Stage management: Will Manley