Dancing through the wilderness

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral is a spectacularly beautiful building and to be asked to perform here is an absolute privilege. To walk within this magnificent space is awe inspiring. I feel tiny, dwarfed by the sheer size of the place and there  are moments, during rehearsals when I feel as though I have literally stepped into Heaven, the hypnotic voices of the choirs, are as seraphs in a celestial wonderland.

I am here because Fallen Angels have been invited to be part of a new piece of choral theatre, created by John Browne and Jen Hayes. It is a piece about the nature of spirituality and ‘tells the universal story of the quest for meaning in a secular age.’ It is about a man, who leaves his home and family, venturing into the wilderness, in search of meaning. The theme is one with which the angels are familiar, deeply resonating with our own journeys through addiction to recovery, and one which reflects the human condition as a whole.

The piece brings together several choirs, made up of Liverpool Cathedral Youth Choir, Up for Arts and Voice Pops Community Choirs, and singers from Genie in the Gutter, Tom Harrison House and the Liverpool Iranian Community. Choreography for the piece is by Jo Blowers, Mary Prestige and the lovely Paul Bayes Kitcher. My fellow dancers, Phil Ashby, Andy Miller, Ian Brown, Paula Patterson and Keith Tucker are a warm and enthusiastic  bunch and I feel comfortable and happy working with them. Sadly, Kirstie Burton, who was part of our piece, is unable to dance with us, because of a back injury, but promises to be in the audience, sharing in the spiritual atmosphere and camaraderie of the event.

Each day for a week, I trek from Liverpool Central Station, up St James’s Mount, to where the cathedral towers majestically, above the city. I cannot believe my stamina, especially as it is only fifteen months since my second knee replacement. During rehearsals, we run and I fall, but I am made of tough stuff and the only part of me I hurt, is my little finger.

I am in awe of the sound produced by the solo singers and the choirs, the melody of their voices enhanced by the acoustics of the building. Closing my eyes, I can imagine this to be a host of angelic beings serenading the way to Heaven. Opening them, I am transfixed by the intricate beauty and vivid colours of the stained glass windows. The reverence I feel is breathtaking.

I am excited to be part of this piece, especially as I am making my acting debut. It is scary at first and well out of my comfort zone, to have to laugh like Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre, but we have been working with Jo Blowers and she tells me to commit to it, so that’s what I try to do.

It is exhilarating working with Paul, Jo and my fellow Fallen Angels, to create the movement for this performance. I especially enjoy the work my peers do, that employs the use of chairs as props. Again, for this section of the dance, I have to wear my acting hat, to become a menacing authority figure. I enjoy playing a villain, so this suits me well.

Phil Ashby is phenomenal as the protagonist of the piece and his duet with Ian Brown, who portrays a transformative angel, is mesmerising, especially against the backdrop of the cathedral.

We perform over two nights, to appreciative audiences. The lighting is soft and blue, exuding an atmosphere of presence and holiness. The voices of the solo singers have a supernatural quality and seem to emanate from the walls themselves, beautiful and ethereal.

As always, when performing with Fallen Angels, I experience an explosion of adrenaline. It is even more rewarding to be part of something bigger, a piece of theatre involving people from a variety of backgrounds. The theme of the performance, brought together by John and Jen, speaks to the lost soul within us; that which yearns to reach out and connect to others, the searcher on a quest for enlightenment and the spirit that understands that we are all one and part of a divine power that unites us.

The finale is a moving composition of voice and breath, which follows ‘The River.’ Our protagonist becomes vulnerable, when he divests himself of his clothes and is lifted and carried in procession. The choirs and Fallen Angels join together for this final vocal performance, conducted, so expertly by John Browne. We take our bow and enjoy the rapt reception we receive from the audience.

It is another successful gig for Fallen Angels, and a spellbinding experience overall. Thank you to everyone involved, the talented choirs, composers and choreographers and to my fellow dancers, who have helped to make more happy memories to sew into the tapestry of life.

Linda Lewis

10.7.17