Royal Shakespeare Company lends its voice to Barney poem
A POEM describing life in lockdown Barnard Castle has been brought to life by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Barney Voices was written by award-winning poet Meg Peacocke, who lives in the town, and features contributions from 40 people.
In a collaboration between the poet and The Witham, staff, trustees, volunteers and friends of the arts centre were asked to jot down a few words to capture their thoughts and feelings of life in the dale during the coronavirus lockdown.
Ms Peacocke then used all the contributions in her poem, which is available for all to see in the window of The Witham.
Word of the community poetry effort reached Erica Whyman, deputy artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, who was involved in the 2016 project which saw members of the Castle Players take on the roles of the Mechanicals in the RSC production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Ms Whyman said she was keen to bring the poem to life and drew on the talents of actors Zoe Lambert, Alice Blundell, Assad Zaman, Vicky hall, Dyfrig Morris and Amanda Hadingue to make a lockdown recording.
The six actors were in the final stages of rehearsals for Erica Whyman’s new production of The Winter’s Tale when the UK went into lockdown in March and have since been supporting the Royal Shakespeare Company with its ongoing education and community participation scheme online.
Ms Whyman said: “This is such a lovely project.
“Written with such sensitivity, Barney Voices captures a huge range of emotions which many will recognise from the roller-coaster of recent weeks.
“What comes across most strongly is the sense of community, of helping one another through this crisis and finding hope at the other end.
“My actors and I were very pleased to be able to help bring it to life.”
Ms Peacocke added: “It’s fun when an idea takes off.
“The making of the poem was an adventure for me, since it’s not as I’d normally write for myself. I am happy if I have given a voice to a small northern town in a way that may speak for others too.”
Susan Coffer, manager of The Witham, added: “I’d like to thank Meg for bringing her creative concept to us and writing such a thought-provoking poem in response to Covid-19.
“When I first read Barney Voices, I instantly felt it deserved to be heard and who better to speak the verse than RSC actors?
“I approached Erica knowing her affection for Barnard Castle, having previously worked with local performers.
“She was immediately on board with the idea and I’m hugely grateful to her and the actors for generously giving their time and making this happen.
“Supporting each other and finding positives during this unprecedented time is so important for morale and Meg’s poem has connected so many people. Thanks to this RSC collaboration, I’m sure her poem will now reach a much wider audience.”
The RSC reading of the poem is now available online to view – go to www.the witham.org.uk.