Review: Ours Was The Fen Country, Still House, New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich, May 4

Ours Was The Fen Country

Ours Was The Fen Country - Credit: Archant

The man-made, industrially farmed area we call The Fens produces a variety of responses as people travel by train or car across a landscape dominated by distant horizons and big skies.

Ours Was The Fen Country

Ours Was The Fen Country - Credit: Archant

Especially in autumn and winter it can appear bleak and brooding while summer brings a patchwork of colour as fields bear different crops.

Dan Canham spent two years interviewing the hardy and fiercely independent folk who live and work in The Fens and whose predecessors hunted and fished in what was once a wetland wilderness, full of wildlife and hidden dangers.

Interlaced by haunting music and birdsong, this piece of dance theatre evoked the voices of the past and present as the rich peatland continues to shrink and head towards a time - perhaps only half a century away - when farming the land will become non-viable.

The recorded voices, often hesitant, of present-day inhabitants were heard and then taken up by the four actors who also sought to portray the rhythms and movement of fenland - the eels slipping silently through the waterways, the sturdy horses which once ploughed the land and the shrinking peat itself.


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The albeit slick use of electronic devices – ear pieces, microphones and a lap-top - may have been used as a deliberate nod to change and new technology but it did not sit comfortably with the poetry of the piece. Slide projections of the landscape did, however, serve to enrich the production.

Overall, this was a real ensemble piece of work, the four actors being very focused and in tune with the piece and each other.

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Ours Was The Fen Country is embarking on a nationwide tour but returns to East Anglia for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival May 22 and 23 and to various venues in The Fens from June 17 – 27.

David Green

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