Last night was the final performance of The Yarn, a show that first took to the Unity stage in 2011, before heading to this year’s Edinburgh fringe. MATE Drama Workshop, a community group based in Halewood, decided to say goodbye to their intricate creation with two last celebratory shows.
The whole of the Unity’s performance space was covered in straw and haybales, transformed into an olde worlde Waltons-style village full of weird and wonderful characters ready to spin you a yarn. There was a real sense you were walking into the cast’s territory — some even met you on the stairs as you made the way to a seat — but there was no doubt everyone was welcome.
Twinning infectious folk ditties with fantastical tales, the cast performed this sweet and unusual show with an affection and charm that was completely irresistible. Director Gaynor La Rocca played Molly, whose relationship with Daniel (Francesco La Rocca) provided the linchpin to the village’s past, present and future. In between the blossoming romance, the characters entertained themselves with stories, crammed full of pathos and struggle, but also always good humour.
There was the comically bleak story of The Woman Who Died Five Times, and the macabre silliness of the time Nathanial’s Corpse Ran Away. A witty, rich and well-rounded script from Rob Brannen was treated with the care and attention it deserved from performers who were clearly enjoying their task.
Part ceilidh, part family reunion, part drama, at its heart was the love of good storytelling. The Yarn repeatedly tackled the subject of the community’s struggle to stay alive in harsh times, but the humanity of the writing and the performances gave this show an incredible warmth. It radiated good feeling, a sense of family, togetherness and simple pleasures, and was altogether an incredibly joyous piece. It felt like I had a smile on my face from beginning to end.