THERE couldn’t have been a more evocative and beautiful place to experience Wassail Theatre’s Whispering Willows, than Coates English Willow at Stoke St Gregory, below a hillside woodland overlooking the green, lark-punctuated fields of willow towards the M5 in the distance.
The wordless show, devised by the company and directed by Jesse Briton, tells a timeless story, set on Somerset’s moors and levels, where the cultivation of willow is a staple of life.
It starts in 1929 as Morris works on his farm, planting, harvesting and making baskets as he has always done. One day he’s confronted by an unusually resistant willow root, and eventually prises not a root from the ground, but a girl. He puts her in a basket, but she’s insistent. And hungry, clumsy and difficult.
But she’s keen to learn, copying Morris’s every action (even in the art of tea drinking) and then creating new baskets and uses for the willow.
The seasonal rhythm of their lives is disrupted by war, and then by the encroachment of technology. Will there still be a demand for labour-intensive, weather-dependent artisan crafts in the time of plastic.
Tenderly performed by Clive Duncan and Georgia Wall, Whispering Willows is billed as “a show for families” with music and soundscape by Greg Hall.
It’s the latest county-specific play by Wassail!, in conjunction with Taunton Brewhouse, where it will be performed twice on 12th June. Drawing from ancient legends, recent history and current issues, it weaves its audience into the story with humour, pathos and energy.
It’s a delight. Do see it if you can.