When the Arts Council seemed likely to withdraw its funding from
Eastern Angles, protesters weren't difficult to find! The theatre
company formed in 1982 has produced something like 70 shows, two or
three a year, and taken them to towns and villages throughout East
Anglia. A loyal and appreciative audience has grown up and newcomers
are discovering the joys of Eastern Angles' creativity. I was one of
many who wrote strongly to the Arts Council, which thankfully
reinstated most of the company's grant.
Ivan Cutting, one of the five founders and now Director of the
company, gave his stimulating talk to the Society on 14 January. He
described the group's wish from the outset to invent truly local shows
with local topics and local speech, speech culled for example from
19th century newspapers which in those days printed what people
actually said in full. Inspiration came from the sort of local history
written by George Ewart Evans (e.g. Ask the Fellows who Cut the Hay),
and from the Radio Ballads of Charles Parker and Ewan MacColl (e.g.
The Ballad of John Axon) and from the plays compiled and put on by
Peter Cheeseman in the theatre at Stoke-on-Trent. For a great many of
their shows they have enjoyed the ever-fresh musical compositions of
Pat Whymark ("a natural Paul Macartney").
Their topics have featured, to name a few, herring fishing,
agricultural workers, brewing, fire fighters, lifeboatmen, the
Anglo-Saxons and coming up soon Return to Akenfield and Getting Here,
which will be about incomers from the Caribbean, Portugal and Poland.
Ivan explained Eastern Angles' continuing wish to be "true to the
region". It would be easy and popular to adapt a Hardy novel for
instance but it wouldn't be right to do so. Moreover, the company is
keen "to push audiences a little further" rather than doing an East
Anglian Lark Rise to Candleford! Above all, Eastern Angles aims to
engage audiences many of whom don't see themselves as theatregoers.
They come along because for some of them it will be seeing "their
Cover, issue 175