Walking Plays anthology available now
Check out the May/June 2021 Radical Hospitality edition of The Dramatist – Page 40 – 41 for a two-page feature written by Jo Brisbane about the Walking Plays. I am joyous to see our beautiful, small medieval city of Norwich get mentioned in a New York magazine.
During lockdown in three countries, twelve states, playwrights walked. Inspired by their wanderings, they wove stories and came together to share. Tales of social justice. Of magic and the tragic. The comical and the historical. Horror and fantasy. Where their minds wandered, their characters followed. Across time, across generations. Diverse and dispersed, they brought their plays together and walked the world. Well, some of it.
The International collection of Walking Plays, written by a talented bunch of twenty-eight playwrights from the US, Canada and the UK, curated by Claudia Inglis Haas. All of the plays were written for outside – so they can be performed over Zoom, as a podcast or radio play. If your theatre, podcast or radio station would like to perform our anthology our plays, visit the Walking Plays Facebook page for the performance rights.
Marie Cooper’s Walking Play, ‘Unlocked’
My audio play ‘Unlocked’ was inspired by my walking Norwich during the pandemic lockdown. Particularly the riverside area of the city and Norwich Cathedral Quarter. Unlocked is part of the Walking Plays collection, and is also now available on the New Play Exchange.
Synopsis for Unlocked
Hannah discovered something about her partner, Ryan that unnerved her. She panicked and ran. Both Ryan and her friend Lauren are out looking for Hannah along the riverside.
Recommendation for Unlocked on the New Play Exchange
“…you start to feel breathless from the movement. It’s a fast-paced, action-packed audio play that tears your emotions a zillion ways before letting them go.” Lee R. Lawing
My Walking Play Route – Norwich Riverside
Although I live in the city, I am fortunate that there are many green spaces dotted around the urban centre. The river walk nearest to our Cathedral is the section of the riverside I tend to favour – from the train station to Whitefriars – because it is mostly set aside from housing and industrial units.
You can walk right up to the water’s edge for most of the way. Unlike further upriver, where walkers are sandwiched between housing and the steep fenced-off, bricked-edges, or further downstream where the riverside is somewhat marred by blocks of apartment buildings, restaurants and concrete.
On the section in between, running from the entrance through the patio of the Angler Pub, you can feel the spongy grass beneath your feet. Allow the weeping willow leaves to run between your fingertips. If you are there at just the right time of year, you might find some areas of grass turned white by poplar tree fluff.
Historic Norwich Cathedral Quarter
Although the brief of my play was to write in the modern time, the area I walked is steeped in history. I tend to walk the greener sections of old Norwich, from the Cathedral Quarter and Pulls Ferry to Whitefriars bridge. So, it was at this point that my short play also begins.
As the Play begins
Lauren leaves the Cathedral coffee shop and spots Hannah walking by the old red post box. Lauren is dressed for the office, not snow, so it takes some time for her to almost catch up with Hannah. She reaches the picturesque Pulls Ferry before being close enough to shout…
Pulls Ferry sits at the end of Ferry Lane where a canal used to run from the river up to the Cathedral, It was used to ferry the Caen limestone up to the site where the cathedral construction began in 1096. The two main characters, of my play, Lauran and Hannah, come together near this point and walk along that stretch of river.
Further along, the Red Lion pub nestles at the side of Bishop’s Bridge. This was where Robert Kett fought for the rights of the poor in 1549, when his army of rebels attacked Norwich, crossing the river Wensum and forcing through the city defences.
Beyond the pub is another stretch of trees and grass with the path meandering through it. A side path leads closer to the river’s edge. There are benches dotted along the walk to rest or just stop, to breathe in the wonders of nature. To watch the swans glide by or the gulls dipping under the surface for fish. There is a small area on the turn of the river where local children tend to come to play during the summer. It is known locally as ‘the beach’.
On the left of the path before the beach is the Skywatch seat, carved from redwood, a memorial to a local musician. The Japanese Cherry Blossom tree that partners the polished seat, stands adorned with colourful trinkets.
Overlooking the beach stands the flint-built Cow Tower. Once part of the city walls and defences for the city of Norwich, now it stands alone and gated. It didn’t use to be so exclusive. I remember going inside as a youngster. My friends and I loved going inside. I don’t recall why to be honest, as there wasn’t much more to find inside, other than the pigeons and pigeon poop. Yet I feel sad now to find myself lockout out of somewhere there was part of my wanderings growing up.
Behind the Tower, away from the river is a pond. When the river rises, the area becomes flooded and the wooden-planked river walkway becomes a bridge. The pond freezes over in the winter. When I was writing my walking play, the pond was solid and there was snow crunching underneath my footsteps and so that was the environment into which I placed my characters into their story.
Crossing a short wooden bridge, there is a small inlet from the river that leads to what remains of the 18th-century swan pit. The tidal water would lead into the grounds of the Great Hospital where the swans would be fattened up and then consumed by the local gentry,
A little further along, across a car park, sits the Adam & Eve pub, the oldest pub in Norwich, dating back to 1249. It was used by the construction workmen whilst the Cathedral was being built and according to the website of the pub, still has a Saxon well underneath the lower bar floor.
Spanning the river, leading away from the Adam and Eve toward Mousehold heath is the curving, modern Jarrold’s bridge. This was the point at which my story ended for my characters, as they go their separate ways.