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Cambridge News | www.cambridge-news.co.uk | May 23, 2013 | 23

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Round-up

Dance ᔡ Still House: Ours Was the Fen Country, Cambridge Junction, Thursday, May 30 at 7.30pm. Tickets £12 from (01223) 511 511 / www.junction.co.uk

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HE mysterious, soggy Fens are often forgotten by the worlds of theatre and film, so Dan Canham, a former Hills Road student and artistic director of his own production company, Still House, decided to put that right. Originally from Burwell, Dan is bringing Ours Was the Fen Country, a dance-theatre piece that explores the murky stories and watery histories of the Fens, to Cambridge Junction next week. Explaining how the show emerged, Dan says: “For the last couple of years I’ve been going around the Fens, mostly on trains and on my bike, interviewing people, seeking out rare characters who have ways of life that are not so common anymore, talking to them about their lives, their histories, their relationships to the landscape, and about the future and their hopes and their fears around that.” During his investigative travels, Dan stumbled across a cast of unique Fenland people with captivating tales to tell. “People that the likes of you or I might not necessarily come into contact with because they keep

Ours Was the Fen Country

themselves to themselves and they’re relatively self-sufficient,” says Dan. “I met some really generous, warm hearted, friendly people who were happy to share their stories.” There was Peter Carter, the last traditional eel catcher who uses homemade willow traps, (“It took me a lot of perseverance to get an interview with him, but when I did, it was brilliant, he was full of brilliant stories and

an attitude that you don’t often find,”), 92-year-old Nancy Mason who has lived through two world wars and has spent almost all her years living on the Fen, and a 20-year-old farmer called Phil Smith who has worked a 1000 acre farm since he was 16 (“He’s really happy out there and loves farming. He speaks absolutely beautifully about his relationship with nature and about his life,”). Taking the audio from those interviews, Dan has built a piece of theatre around the Fens and its people, layering music, dance and spoken word. “It’s a piece of dance theatre that uses words, movement, music and lights to conjure up some of the atmospheres of the Fens, some of the heaviness and also the beauty,” he says earnestly. “It uses that landscape as a metaphor for wider concerns about change, about loss and things dying out and our relationship to the natural world, to the land, to the soil.” Throughout Dan’s career he has honed in on stories about real people and real places. His

first show, 30 Cecil Street, was about an abandoned theatre in Limerick, Ireland, and Ours Was the Fen Country is a continuation of that. “It’s been about 13 years since I left the Fens and it’s getting to that point where I’m interested in looking back at the places I ignored. The places a lot of people ignore actually,” he admits. “For me, and a lot of people, the Fens is a place they’ve either never heard of or they travel through, or they’ve got particular assumptions about, and actually there’s a wealth of stories [there] and it’s a pretty provocative place. I wanted to create a piece that reflected that.” Why should people see the show? “The stories are so strong and the manner in which we worked with those stories, there’s a lot of integrity to it, an evocative feel, especially for an East Anglian audience,” Dan muses. “I think there’s not much work like this happening at the moment. It’s a little bit of something that they’ll know, and a little bit of something they might not have seen before.” We can’t help but be intrigued.

Comedy AFTER going from a hefty 25 stone to a svelte 15, stand-up and comedy rock song singer Mitch Benn is claiming the obese are the ‘last legitimate hate group’ left in his latest show, Reduced Circumstances. But don’t fret, it’s not going to be a night packed with diet tips (Benn pretty much lived on a depressing menu of soup, shakes and well, more soup). Instead expect a slew of the Glastonbury regular’s trademark comedy songs and witty asides on food addiction and the baleful state of the economy. Born in Liverpool and a student in Edinburgh (where he later went on to pack out shows at the Fringe), he’s now a staple on BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show and BBC Radio 2’s It’s Been a Bad Week. When he’s not trying to boost his number of Twitter followers (it currently stands at more than 38,000, although at one time he was trying to be ‘King of Twitter’

ᔡ Mitch Benn, Cambridge Junction, Friday, May 24 at 8pm. Tickets £13 from (01223) 511 511 / www.junction.co.uk but got batted back down by Stephen Fry and Coldplay. The blow was softened when Fry made him ‘Viceroy of Facebook’ – whatever that means), he’s anxiously preparing for the release of his debut sci-fi novel, Terra, out in July. Oh, and he wrote and recorded an album for Comic Relief in 24 hours – he’s really quite a busy guy. Most excitingly he’s said to finish his set with the brilliant, goosebump inducing, I’m Proud of the BBC, with rousing choruses such as: “I’m proud of the BBC/ It’s part of you and it’s part of me/ It’s just this and lousy weather/ That holds us to to-ge-ge-gether.” If that doesn’t tempt you to buy a ticket to his Junction show, I’m not sure what will.

Mitch Benn

ɀ Cow-tipping might sound fun, but painting a cow is much more legal – fibre glass ones mind, not real ones. The Farmland Museum & Denny Abbey is letting crafty kids grab a paintbrush and cover their own Friesian with multi-coloured doodles. Ann Wise, the museum’s curator, said: “How often do you get a chance to paint a cow any colour you want?” And she’s got a point. Check it out on Tuesday, May 28 and Thursday, May 30 between 12noon and 4pm, at the museum which is on the A10 between Cambridge and Ely. Tickets cost £5 adults, £3.50 children and under 5s go free. ɀ “A chilling morality tale” sounds rather intriguing… Psalm is a new piece of theatre from Cambridge playwright Nick Warburton which is being staged as part of The Michaelhouse Festival – three weekends of arts events throughout May in aid of Cambridgeshire charity Arts & Minds. It’s about a condemned man on death row trying to remember the psalms as a nun tries to save his life. See it at the Michaelhouse chancel on Friday, May 24 and Saturday, May 25 at 3pm. Tickets cost £10 (£8 concessions) from The Michaelhouse Cafe or (01223) 309167. ɀ Martin Roscoe garners some high praise: “A pianist who both thinks and offers full-blooded playing of breadth and depth. In this country, he is an uncommon creature,” (Daily Telegraph). Celebrating his 60th season in music, Roscoe will be a guest soloist at a Cambridge Philharmonic concert performing Mozart’s turbulent Piano Concerto in D Minor K.466, while second soloist, Heather Shipp, will perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. See them both on Saturday, May 25 at 7.30pm at West Road Concert Hall. Tickets cost £15£25 from (01223) 357851. ɀ AdHoc Productions, a new theatre club in Huntingdon, is staging its first production at the weekend. The troupe will be putting on God of Carnage, “a sharp, biting black comedy” about two families making peace after a clash between their sons. It’s set to be one of many future drama pieces from the group. A pre-show supper will be served before the curtain goes up on Friday, May 24 and Saturday, May 25 at 7.15pm at Huntingdon’s Commemoration Hall. Tickets cost £10 – including dinner – from eventbrite.co.uk. ɀ Exeter rock group The Computers will be clashing about in The Portland Arms on bank holiday Monday. The generally suited, booted and Brylcreemed five-piece have just released their album, Love Triangle Hate Squares, and will be supported on the night by The Dead Formats and The Vitamins. Check them out on Monday, May 27. Tickets cost £6.50 and the doors open at 7pm.

Ours was the Fen Country  

Interview with Dan Canham

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