Original musicals can be tricky to write and more difficult to write well. Especially if the topic is something more unusual – for example, the women of the Black Country striking over their harsh working environment and low wages. Yet this is what AND THEN WE DANCED chose as their subject matter. And I’m glad to say they did it extremely well.
Their music is harsh, brittle, tender and soulful all at once. Constant leaps between the cacophonous drumming and angelic singing keeps you on edge throughout and makes the piece move at an incredible pace. At fifty minutes I found I was left wanting more. The use of tools as instruments worked well and they coaxed the music out of the chains, bins and work tops with ease. Yasmin Frampton’s singing was a particular highlight, her high, sweet tone rising above the ensemble’s soulful harmonies, her haunting melody a beacon of hope to the others on stage.
One downside of the percussive music is the loss of some lyrics. The opening song was performed with the desperation and frustration of women trapped in their work. However, the volume of drumming drowned out the voices meaning the first song was almost lost to the audience. However, the actors’ conviction in their performance more than made up for this.
Despite being a very small performance space the actors worked well within it and the choreography was executed with great passion. Sadly the lighting failed to cover parts of the piece and actors were often sat in patches of darkness, especially towards the front of the stage where, unfortunately, there are long sections of performance. Some cues also seemed to lag, again leaving actors in darkness while they sang.
All in all this was an interesting and emotional performance which the performers and production team should be proud to be involved in. The music and singing combine with the actors natural talent to tell the stories of these strong women with charm and passion. A thoroughly enjoyable production.
Rouse Ye Women is showing at the Bristol Bierkeller until July 25th.