Golden Tree Productions wanted to develop a way to engage a ‘non-theatre-going’ audience in our experimental, contemporary recreation of the medieval Cornish ‘Plen an Gwari’ experience. We constructed a mobile, touring amphitheatre and produced an extraordinary collision of ancient and contemporary Cornish culture.
Gogmagog was created in summer 2014, with sponsorship from Visit Cornwall, RIO (Real Ideas Organisation) and Arts Council England and partnerships with Falmouth University and the National Trust. It was our reworking of the ancient Cornish creation myth, which revealed a timeless story of conflict, survivors and asylum seeking. As in a medieval Plen an Gwari amphitheatre, the set, staging and performers surrounded the audience, immersing them in the action and inviting them to find their own level of participation.
Directed and performed by Will Coleman with Hal Silvester as Lead Designer/Maker, Brett Harvey as Performance Director, Bec Applebee as Performer and Community Engagement Officer and Jim Carey as Musical Director, the team designed and built a ‘wagon-train’ set, which toured iconic locations from cliff-tops to castles across Cornwall. We hosted afternoon programmes of ‘cultural offerings’ with local community groups and schools, celebrating Cornish distinctiveness and diversity whilst using the present-day experience of refugees and asylum-seekers to challenge notions of identity.
Alongside the Gogmagog project, we set up an intern programme for first year Theatre & Performance BA (Hons) students from Falmouth University. Dr Natalia Eernstman headed up the scheme, recruiting and mentoring five students whilst involving them in the Gogmagog production throughout the summer.
“One of the most valuable experiences of my theatre career and education”
The response to both Gogmagog and the various community events was remarkably positive, with over 2,000 audience members engaged across 12 shows. Feedback from the performances revealed how notions about identity and belonging were challenged, distinctiveness and diversity were celebrated and community was reinforced.
“The wonderful inflating monster; the great structural scenery (a whole travelling-circus-worth!)”
“The skills, energy and sheer pazazz of it all made for a crowd of extremely smiley, happy people milling around.”
“This was a Cornwall proud with open arms.”
“The whole concept of Plen an Gwari with the audience in the centre is a winner…”
“Wonderful production with great audience participation in a stunning location.”
“For most of the audience it was their first experience of this sort of theatre or possibly ANY theatre.”