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The Magic of Wild Heather

Community Theatre – Doncaster Cast 

Thanks to Mike Baldwin for this article which shows how a Theatre of Sanctuary brings together diverse communities to create  originally published in the Doncaster Conversation Club Newsletter 82. 

Since 2019 The National Theatre has been running a Public Acts project working collaboratively and creatively with community groups around the country.

Doncaster Cast, as a Theatre of Sanctuary, has been working with Doncaster Conversation Club on Thursday afternoons, pre-pandemic creating “The Doncastrian Chalk Circle”, at it has become known.

Workshops explored the joys and sorrows, celebrations and challenges of the human condition under the courageous leadership of Nic from Cast and James Blakey the production director.

Unfortunately, just as real bonds and connections were being forged the pandemic hit and the production had to be postponed.

However, regular “Acts of Joy”, zoom meetings continued, and moving, sincere creativity continued, resulting in “Stories to Get Us Through”.  Relationships and respect grew amongst the six organisations that took part:  DCC, Cast Young Company, b:friend, Edlington Community Organisation, Darts and Right Up Our Street.

We also took part in a National Theatre Musical “We begin Again” reflecting on the Pandemic, what we had learnt and positively moving forward.

We had training workshops in writing, listening, poetry, performance but mostly the need and importance of celebrating ourselves, each other and the joy of theatrical collaboration.

I personally was constantly moved and amazed by the tremendous stories of challenge and courage expressed with great power and sensitivity. “It was the stories that saved us!”

In July this year, we were at last able to meet together at Cast and start the creation of “The Magic of Wild Heather” joined by a wonderful writer, Jasmin Mandi-Ghomi  who turned our tentative workshops into an inspirational story of despair, hope and  courage. The re-birth of a lost community who learnt and then celebrated the magic of love and kindness, of sacrifice and generosity.

When Heather was born people quickly became suspicious of the positive effect she had on the village and as these suspicions grew and the truth became distorted.  Heather left as a demoralised but brave teenager.

On her adventures she met many “magical” people who shared their visions and stories, so when she realised her village was in desperate need, Heather immediately returned.

Heather lovingly and courageously brought the villagers together helping them to understand the magic of love, care and respect for all peoples deep within the hearts of all its members.  “It was the Stories that Saved Us!”

James was a brilliant director who brought together a motley crew of beautiful individuals to create with Yasmin the writer, a remarkable and deeply moving piece of collaborative theatre.  The audience were an integral part of the performances and all shared in a celebratory feast at the end of each performance.

I had the privilege of drumming for a song performed by Pablo singing about the power of a smile in Spanish.

Also accompanying Samani in a rhythmic and engaging love song from South Sudan.

Bipolar Abdul was our compère drag extraordinaire, Luke Robson as Alukasam the Magician doing amazing things with liquid metal rings, and August Charles from Zambia accompanied by Tom Woodhouse on guitar, singing beautifully jazzy, bluesy, melting songs which had us all up dancing.

The cast ranged from 13 to 70+ and it was with respect, awe and wonder that I observed and experienced a supportive coming together of a very diverse group, who became one with sincere respect and love for all members.  Members who quietly sought out all opportunities to lift each other up which encouraged a positive spiral effect which was truly amazing and for me deeply humbling.

Roll on the next mini production at Christmas.