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Theatrical spectacular to mark the First World War

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: May 15, 2014

  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan has ploughed up its West Lawn ready to be planted with poppy seeds that, once in flower, will become part of a 'living stage'.

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A WHOLE day theatrical spectacular to mark the centenary of the First World War – unlike anything ever seen in Cornwall – takes place at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in August ... and you can get involved.

WildWorks, the international theatre company based in the county, will remember the haunting day that war was announced in Mevagissey and across the Heligan Estate.

The unique performance – 100: The Day Our World Changed – will take place on Sunday, August 3.

Anybody who has seen any of WildWorks' large-scale works – from Souterrain at Camborne's Dolcoath Mine and The Beautiful Journey at Devonport Docks to their takeover of Kensington Palace and the Michael Sheen-starring The Passion in Port Talbot – will know this will be an event not to be missed.

With striking visual images, memorable new music by Seamus Carey and a core of familiar WildWorks performers, the event will involve many local people of all ages.

The audience is invited to follow the story at different times throughout the day and evening.

As the sun rises on August 3 Gorran Haven, St Ewe and Mevagissey will stir and the names of the 53 local men who gave their lives will be called at each war memorial. At Mevagissey Quay, three red-sailed luggers will approach the harbour as the town crier summons local men to depart.

The audience will then meet the main characters in the drama – the local squire, one of his gardeners Jack, and May, his love.

The audience will follow the men of the Royal Naval Reserve as they march off to war, accompanied by St Austell Town Band, as they did 100 years ago.

There will be Edwardian fun and games at Heligan, a chance to hear the stories of its gardeners who joined up and lots more.

Bill Mitchell, artistic director of WildWorks, told What's On: "We're commemorating the start of the war when it was all about excitement and adventure – the fear was to come later.

"Theatrically, what I am playing with is life in 2014 at Heligan with 'time slips' back to 1914 and glimpses of war in France – it should be quite ghostly.

"Fundamentally it revolves around two characters who are 'walking out together'. He signs up for war and she doesn't know. It's a very human and archetypal story of what happened to a lot of people."

WildWorks have been working extensively with the Lost Gardens of Heligan, local historians and residents to uncover the tragic histories of the men.

"We will have a background story for everyone on the war memorial in Meva. Just for a day we will be bringing them back to life," said Bill.

The gardens themselves are being transformed to how they would have looked at the time, with a stunning living stage of Flanders poppies.

Bill added: "At least six Heligan gardeners joined up and never came back. One returned but the rest died in France and Belgium.

"They all got on a train that travelled from Penzance to Devonport. Mevagissey saw 75per cent of its fishermen join the reserve. That train journey was a powerful moment in history."

WildWorks is calling on anyone who would like to get involved to attend events this Friday and Saturday at Mevagissey Activity Centre, where they will present their plans. "We need people to be stewards, to perform, sing in the chorus of 100 voices, people who can sew and help make the costumes and uniforms, even someone with drill sergeant experience," said Bill. "Basically, if you'd like to be involved we'll find something for you to do."

For further information see www.wildworks.biz

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