Students from University Centre St Helens’ foundation degree in Theatre and Performance have received widespread praise following their performances of ‘Weep Mothers Weep’ in honour of the 204 men and boys who died in the 1878 Haydock Wood Pit disaster 140 years ago.
Taking place at Haydock Library, the performance was produced as a response to St Helens Council’s ongoing initiative to support a programme of local events across St Helens to celebrate the boroughs 150th anniversary and the award-winning Cultural Hubs, arts-in-libraries programme.
Tickets for performances were hot in demand with an additional 10 tickets for each performance added to meet the demand.
The students opened the performance with a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Setting the scene with a short narrative video put together by students, using an array of old photographs and research, seamlessly composed with a voice over from one of the student actors to transport audiences back to 1878 where it all began. From amongst the darkness the students began to appear, taking the audience on a journey through time, using movement to display a series of deeply moving monologues, utilising the library space to create an interactive performance.
The performance featured stories from the Colliery Manager, the local Priest, the Miners themselves, and the wives and mothers of those whose lives were lost. It was a story of loss and grieving, but ultimately a story of hope as the whole community pulls together to offer support to the families.
The monologues seemed to hit a personal chord with audiences, as they watched the students recount the struggle of local families, who lost their family members; husbands and children in the disaster. The students delved into the lives of those who long awaited their loved ones return that very night, leaving 100 widows without a main breadwinner, who then had to come to terms with life on their own.
The emotional impact of the performance was cleverly captured by the students, who despite having limited resources, managed to create the perfect atmosphere, using a torch and darkness as effective mood lighting and a guitar to create a fluid link from piece to piece.
Ian Greenall, Programme Leader for the foundation degree in Theatre and Performance, said: “I would like to congratulate the students on their outstanding performance. I also want to say thank you to St Helens Council’s Library Service for asking us to create the performance. It was extremely humbling to see an array of local people, of all ages in attendance who had come together to support and recount such a tragic moment in our history. Thank you to everyone who came along and took the time to support and comment.”
The performance left a lasting impact on audiences, with many people reaching out to University Centre St Helens on social media describing their sheer enjoyment, honour and privilege to have been a part of the first of many events to remember the Wood Pit disaster.
The Theatre and Performance Foundation Degree at University Centre St Helens is a largely practical course that has been designed to provide students with the skills, practical experience and knowledge with which to seek a range of possible employment opportunities within the theatre and performance industry. It’s not too late to apply to University Centre St Helens for September 2018. Visit uc.sthelens.ac.uk to find out more.