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Scarborough Stories - The audience experience by Evie Manning

Updated: Jan 29

Scarborough Stories felt like my favourite approach to theatre - where you can feel the process of making it in the finished show itself.

The show felt quite simple whilst at the same time very complex and layered and very well organised. It was really smart to all meet at the start at the SJT and be introduced to the layers of different hosts and know that we would all go on different journeys and witness different stories. That feeling that there are multiple stories everywhere you look and that it is never possible to witness them all was very powerful and felt like the essence of the piece.

The stories I witnessed on our orange route were all told bravely and powerfully by each performer, they had honesty and humour and felt like they all had different ways in to unlocking their story, whether through an object or a friendship or a piece of clothing. Really powerfully we heard about the friendship of two women who transformed themselves and each other by helping others and their journey saw them go on to win awards, what was most powerful was their relationship, the way they laughed and related to each other and you could feel the years of care between them.

In different locations across the town, we met a girl who experienced a toxic relationship throughout the pandemic finding herself isolated with a friendship and a ring as her lifeline, a young boy who had experienced homophobia with a violent attack and come out the other end prouder and stronger, a teenager at high school finding their way amongst the system and friendship groups.

The journeys in between each story were very powerful, our hosts talked to us and shared their stories, what they had learnt about themselves and how they now wanted to help others. This was really moving and felt like the power of the piece - that our guides had been witnessing other people’s stories throughout the run of performances and now felt empowered to share their own. Inevitably this infectious quality made you reflect on your own story.

The whole performance concluded outside Poundland with an incredible community choir holding irreverent and thoughtful embroidered protest signs - this to me was the most beautiful aesthetic moment of the show - they read ‘the place we ran away to’, ‘the smell of doughnuts.’ I loved each of these signs and what they meant for the people holding them, the nods to stories within them.

The choir performed an original song that felt like it filled the streets of Scarborough all the way to the sea, the arrangement felt very profound, full of energy. A community of voices and moments where individual voices really soared and shone. It was rhythmic enough that when we walked back to the theatre the audience started singing a long and this felt a true goosebump moment as the layers of voices escorted us back. It felt very powerful to feel and hear voices of different members of the cast whose story they had shared and then seeing them in another mode, really singing and letting everything out.

The whole piece was expertly directed by Rebecca Denniff and produced with so much care and thought by ARCADE. It felt a celebration of the people of Scarborough and at the same time wasn’t bound by its specificity of place, it really was about the power of stories and storytelling. The value of stories and the value of everyone identifying their own and then the power in sharing. And moreover the power of care, for many of these first time performers you could feel the care that had gone into working with them and encouraging them to see and share their story. A magnificent achievement for everyone involved and an honour to witness.

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