Crossings blended a historical story of an Irish woman transported to New Zealand and an African woman aboard the slave ship Zong, with a contemporary story of a young black woman growing up in Liverpool today.
Review by Bonny Cummins
Characters Shelley: Pregnant Gang Member - Nadine Wild-Palmer Voice 1 – African Woman – survivor of the Slave ship, Zong - Margo Virginia Cargill Voice 2 – Heggerty - Irishman - Julie McNamara Sign Language Interpreter & Ghost - Hetty May Bailey
Creatives Producer: Julie McNamara Director: Karena Johnson Set & Costume: Chris de Wilde Visuals & Edit: Çaglar Kimyoncu Lighting Design & Operation: Gursen Houssein Soundscape: Lesley Willis Stage Assistants: Alan Clifton & Rory Campbell
I interviewed Julie Mc Namara and Hetty-May Bailey and Karena Johnson and Chris de Wilde. What struck me immediately was the vibe that they knew this was something special and something that they were all passionate about. Julie Mc Namara had written a corker of a piece of theatre and it was being delivered by her dream team, a talented team ,who spoke and described as one voice. An added aspect was that Julie was connected to the docks and sea at Liverpool through her own childhood on the water, in her dad’s boats, which adds depth and authenticity to the writing. She had long searched for the remains of her dads boats and in so doing had uncovered the story of the Zong a story that had to be told. Her visit to New Zealand had uncovered Heggerty.
Crossings tells of the barbarism of slavery that happened on the ship the Zong out at sea where they threw the slaves off the boat to drown! to claim the £30 insurance on their lives! The play is acted out on the bones of the wreck of the haunted ship, where the young pregnant girl Shelley so convincingly played by Nadine Wild-Palmer is sheltering from the weather and her awful boyfriend and gang. She is shown compassion, strength and love by the two uber strong matriarchs voices from the past, on a terrible stormy night, by the African woman who survived the Zong ** (see below) and Heggerty a woman who had to disguise herself as a man to survive in a New Zealand community who had left on a passage from Liverpool docks to where her ghost has returned . Heggerty is sensitively played, by Julie Mc Namara, dressed and acting as a man and showing us how she survived, gun in hand, but softening, still reaching out as a woman to help this poor young girl. Margo Virginia Cargill powerfully plays the survivor of the Zong and gives a luminous and brilliant and moving performance. Hetty –May Bailey is a ghost and is the play, and she signs artistically and empathetically, adding an anchoring effect to Canning Dock where the Zong is moored. A really empowering female led story so powerfully delivered, beautifully directed and produced .They all work together as one voice to tenderly deliver a powerful must be told story with an uplifting conclusion that has a universal message to all young people. Really strong script written from experience and the truth. It also reversed the adage of artists not being acknowledged in their home town. It went down a storm, with everyone and I am really looking forward to seeing it on tour, meanwhile, it was a tour de Force.
Please see YouTube clips below of interviews with Julie Mc Namara, Hetty-May Bailey and Mike of A Foundation.
The new play ‘Crossings’ by Julie McNamara, is a stunning piece of work in development.
When I read the outline for ‘Crossings’ I knew I was going to want to go and see it. Julie McNamara has researched stories from Merseyside and the walls of museums in Liverpool and New Zealand putting them together in a fabulous play, a wonderful piece of writing.
Set on the Ghost ship Zong, Crossings tells the stories of three different women’s experiences. Voices born hundreds of years apart are explored in a haunting meeting.
The company works well together. The theatrical storytelling, is strong, with powerful performances from all three women, particularly Nadine Wild who plays Shelley. The direction, by Karina Jonston is simple and effective, with a good use of space. The set and backdrop film images add to the atmosphere however, I did wonder whether the lighting could be darker at times for it would have been dark on those ships. I loved Julie’s singing, but wanted more (in context song would have played a major part in the histories being reflected)
I’ve seen Julie’s work before as a singer and in comedy. ‘Crossings’ feels like a new direction. It is such a great and important piece of work. The stories told reveal a hidden history of some of the traumatic and atrocious situations women underwent. Stories that should not be forgotten!
I wasn’t sure whether I’d call it Disability Arts. It’s perfectly relevant for this work to have been featured, as it allowed us to see new work by a one of the leading women in the Disability arts movement.
One cast member is blind, Margo Virginia Cargil and plays a blind African woman. I had mixed feelings about how the blindness was dealt with in the script. It’s only mentioned a couple of times and not for long. I would have preferred this aspect to be explored further or left out.
Hetty May Bailey provides BSL on stage and is incorporated into the action telling the other characters stories in SLI. Is she there for access support or meant as a fourth character? I like the idea of a fourth ghost in the play, but I wanted to know her story too.
I had literal AD through headset for this performance, given by a man. As this is a play about women, it would have made more sense to have a woman providing the AD. Through the AD I heard about the images of other people that were present in the film work. These were not referred to on the stage. If they represent other characters or memories, there needs to be some form of verbal comment on stage.
I guess this begs the question, what does a playwright and director want their audience to know about versa conjecture etc/ information access I hope this play gets a green light for further development, and that it is seen by a great many people. I hope too that the company will consider how this work might be used in Education. One woman in the audience mentioned that through her education, growing up in New Zealand, she had not been told these stories and she should have been. Well there’s a festival in New Zealand next year I hope this play goes!