In The Stones tells the tale of Childe Rowland, whose sister runs widdershins round the church and is taken by the Elf King. He must venture to the Other Side of Things to get her back, falling through the history of the church where she vanished. This musical and family-friendly show tells the secular history of parish churches, adapting to each church we visit.
|In the Stones|
|Written by||Sophie Haxworth and Mingma Hughes|
From the conception of In the Stones, Sophie and I were certain of heart of our story: we want to celebrate forgotten tales and stories in the culture and memory surrounding the local parish church which, for so much of history, was the heart of every community. Here was the place for law courts, horse fairs, performances, meetings, parties and (occasionally) religious worship. These buildings saw generations of communities through the most important keystones of life: birth, leave-taking, wedding, refuge and death. So many stories, so much material… but how do you take that idea and make it into something entertaining?
The Tale of Childe Rowland came to our rescue. He is an old, and today oft forgotten oral fairytale and folk hero. Namedropped in Shakespeare’s King Lear he has clearly been a folk hero for much longer than we might imagine. Joseph Jacob’s 19th century version of the story begins with Rowlands sister, Burd Ellen, turning widdershins around a church and so being snatched by the King of Elfland. From this beginning, we found the frame of our story easily: each obstacle on his quest became a keystone of life, giving spine to our unfurling tale. We felt this embracing and readapting of old and new, so little done (or at least publicly acknowledged done) made sense for this story: we are intentionally trying to celebrate old stories so this composite felt right.
I wonder how many references are clear - poets featured include Tennyson, Walter de la Mare, Geothe, Robert Browning and Christina Rossetti. The music ranges from settings of old poems and folksongs, to entirely original offerings. Not all references are so obscure (did you spot Love Actually?) for our hope is for this show to be universally engaging. This is one reason for its flexibility: the script changes to reflect our venue, the blocking changes to harmonise with the space, and even the format of the show shifts to give space for community engagement that is complemented by our workshop programme. Though a universal story, it should also feel singularly local.