“In his hands”

So here we find ourselves, the night before own big push on the front line of the stage “in his hands” (Milne, 1918). The night before our first performance of “Sincerely Yours” and for some reason I have not been going over my lines or my dance routines as relentlessly as I normally would. Instead, I have been drawn to the letters from the First World War boys again. And despite our performance being more focused on the roles, positions and states of the women during The First World War I find myself connecting with the women in the closest way by reading the letters that the soldiers sent home to their sweethearts, family and friends.

(Vaughan, W. McMaster University Libraries)

Some talk with passion and yearning, some with hope, some accepting of their fate before they even know it and some talking seemingly about nothing of deep meaning. However, it is these letters that are most interesting and arguably say far more than those men who literally spelt out how much they missed home. These men who were “quiet” in what they were saying, often commenting on the weather, that they were well and hoped their letter recipient was the same, or that they couldn’t say much. However, the recipients of the letters could find everything the needed to know and just how their boy was doing in the rows and rows of kisses that would fill the bottom of the page.

28th May, 1918,

Dear Father,

Just a few lines in answer to your letter which I received today.

Yes I got my food alright and you can have supper if you like to go for it, and you can bet I always go for supper. I am taking your advice and eating all I can.

I will see the officer about the allowance in a day or so, as I have heard today that two or three boys mothers are receiving an allowance, but I don’t know how much.

Well, I think I will have to close now. As I haven’t anything more to say just at present. Hoping you are quite well.

From your loving son,

PS. Love to Dolly and Frank 

One of the roles that officers in the Great War had to fulfil was to read and censor every single letter sent back to England in fear that it might reveal some vital piece of information that would prove dangerous in the wrong hands. However, these rows of kisses was the one thing that would never be censored. The men and boys would expose themselves as to how much they loved the person they were sending the letter to, show their fear and longing to be reassured and generally that regardless of how little interesting content their letter had, they were alive and saying all they needed to in the rows of x’s. Some men would do kisses all over the bottoms of their letters and some even squeezing kisses up the sides of pages.

France24 March, 1917

My dearest Emily
Just a few lines dear to tell you I am still in the land of the living and keeping well, trusting you are the same dear, I have just received your letter dear and was very pleased to get it. It came rather more punctual this time for it only took five days. We are not in the same place dear, in fact we don’t stay in the same place very long… we are having very nice weather at present dear and I hope it continues… Fondest love and kisses from your
loving Sweetheart

And a common theme would be that their fate was “out of their hands”, “in the hands of the Lord”, they could not foresee what was going to happen but “all [they could] do was put [themselves] in God’s hands for him to decide” (Earley, 1918). They knew that they had had all the training available, all the luck and well wishers hoping they prospered but it was out of their hands and what was going to be was just going to be. Upon reading these letters tonight, I have never particularly noticed this theme in the letters, but tonight of all nights, it has rung more true to our 10 girls theatre company than ever before. The show has had all the rehearsals possible, we have our families, friends and loved ones wishing us well, sending us messages of luck and belief and now it is out of our hands and tomorrow night: what will be will be.


Works Cited

Frank Earley, ‘Pray for me’ (1918).

Ted Poole, ‘Becoming a Man’ (1918).

Will Martin, ‘Forever Sweethearts’ (1917).

All above accessed on http://aggsliterature.wordpress.com/wwi-letters-home/ on Thursday 22nd May 2014.

Vaughan, W. McMaster University Libraries. Accessed on May 22 2014, http://pw20c.mcmaster.ca/case-study/socks-boys-marion-simpson-and-knitters-first-world-war

The cogs are turning…

From the very first time I played some factory noises to the Birdies to the tightly choreographed scene we have today I wanted to reflect back and show just how many layers and developments the scene has taken and why.

Here are the birds after listening to real cotton mill factory sounds and responding to the material in their own way. Half way through I played Booker T and The MG’s ‘Soul Limbo’ to see how the upbeat, “salsa-ry” music would effect their mannerisms, actions and characters. Watch for how the whole mood in the room changes:

(Emily Cox, March 2014)

From this playful and spontaneous style of factory routine, as choreographer, I considered how the women who worked on the home front in the factories might have behaved and acted emotionally and physically. They had a huge amount of responsibility in the work force their jobs propelled the industrial war machine forward and were crucial to the success of those men on the front line. Consequently, I felt that by making a far more structured and military factory routine it would represent the women and their roles to much better effect.

(Lucy Brown, April 2014)

Works Cited:
Emily Cox, March 2014
Lucy Brown, April 2014

Waltzing through Time

The Waltz. A dance of grace. A dance of elegance. A dance of History. The Waltz allows us to literally walk in the steps that our ancestors would have taken during the First World War, whilst also reviving that beautiful war time atmosphere on our stage in 2014; “we give history the chance to speak again” (Birds Eye View Theatre Manifesto, 2014) through the medium of dance.

The Waltz is a particularly romantic dance I wanted to use this in our performance to portray the women’s longing and love of their boys out on the front line. I’ve done this through creating a layered routine to the war song ‘Till We Meet Again’. The layers were to represent 3 types of women. 4 of the girls will be dancing with brooms thinking back before the war, 4 more girls will dance around the original 4 with empty trench coats representing an almost fantasy and dream like image of what the women wanted desperately to do and then the last 2 girls will be waltzing behind our cyc showing how life was before.

This particular dance is traditionally performed in a closed position (close hold) with a slow 3/4 time beat. The first step is a strong beat followed by two soft beats. 1, 2, 3 1, 2, 3… It is crucial to also include the fall on the strong beat and then 2 rises on the soft beats to achieve a correct and professional waltz step.

This is seen as follows:

In ‘Sincerely Yours’ I’ve been teaching the girls the basic Waltz steps;

The Waltz Box Step

(Central Home, 19th May 2014)

The Waltz Forward Progressive Step

(Central Home, 19th May 2014)

The Natural and Reverse Turn

(Ballroom Dance UK, accessed on 19th May 2014)

And finally The Whisk and Chasse

(Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag, August 17 2012, accessed on 19th May 2014)

Keep an eye out for all of these steps in our big Waltz number ‘Till We Meet Again’!

Works Cited
Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag, August 17 2012, accessed on https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCONA_a14_1qjbBSMMBl4CPQ on 19th May 2014.
Ballroom Dance UK, accessed on https://www.youtube.com/user/BallroomDanceUK on the 19th May 2014.
Dance Resources, accessed on http://www.centralhome.com/ballroomcountry/waltz_steps-2.htm on the 19th May 2014.

Forget me not

The most poignant part I have found with the process of making ‘Sincerely Yours’ is the collecting of the personal stories and accounts, especially from the local people. Taking the time out to visit the people of Lincoln, our grandparents, our relatives, our family friends and to sit down with them and a cup of tea and biscuit to hear the stories of their parents and elders during the First World War. The personal and almost autobiographical nature of our performance has many elements that link it back to the people of Lincoln, however, the key stone which everyone identifies with is the war memorial.

The war memorial is a tall, lonely figure of history, standing proud amongst the buildings of new. It was staggering to read the names on the memorial and how many lost their lives from Lincoln alone. It’s one thing seeing the memorial standing there as a figure of remembrance, however, to identify each individual name and see how many men from the same families were lost is just heart breaking. So much death and so much loss. For these names and the many more thousands of sacrifices, we remember them.

(Laurence Binyon, For The Fallen, 1914)

Works Cited
Laurence Binyon, For The Fallen, 1914. Read by Ellie Coleridge, 2014.
The Last Post, 1914.
Names from the Lincoln War Memorial, High Street, 2014.

Till We Meet Again – A Collaboration


1175336_10152000323245426_895215068535173070_nHello reader,

Charlotte and Ellie here with an insight into our collaborative process of creating ‘Till We Meet Again’.

Here’s a few photo’s Emily took in our rehearsals:

For the People…By the People

The nature of ‘Sincerely Yours’ offers a beautiful space within which the voices of The First World War can take centre stage in its centenary year to pass on the tales of history. Our piece has been created from the letters, personal stories and history of the Local Lincolnshire people during the First World War and has been devised for the people of Lincolnshire in the 21st century. This gives our audience a strong, emotive connection to the piece, a deeper appreciation and understanding of their ancestors. They can hear what their feelings, emotions, fears, rejoices were and listening, in some cases for the first time, to the truthful occurrences in day to day wartime Lincolnshire life.

The Women of Lincoln who built the first ever Tank, Flirt II.

The Lincoln Tank Memorial. Accessed on April 21 2014, http://www.lincolntankmemorial.co.uk/aboutus.html

Our visits into local nursing homes have provided us with some of the closest accounts and most personal stories that we will ever come across in this process. Speaking to the elderly about stories their mothers, fathers and relatives, now passed, have previously told them gives us the most intimate link to wartime Lincolnshire people. They were able to tell us specific times, smells, sounds, feelings they had when their elders had told them stories and, more importantly, the tone in which their elders had spoken. There is something incredibly moving about talking to the elderly about their childhood experiences and how they spoke with their parents about The Great War. They divulge some moments in time which are extremely personal and, on occasion, has caused great upset, yet they carry on speaking as if it helps them to deal with their past and aids them in moving on. We have seen how they talk fondly of their past, almost without pausing to think, as if it were yesterday, and they can remember the conversation word for word without even thinking about it. Like muscle memory they reel this information off and share such intimate moments with us, we have been extremely privileged. To capture this in performance, we use the technique of Verbatim. It allows us to speak in their vocal pattern, with their story telling tone and hope to capture the essence with which they told us originally. We don’t embody or act them. We allow their voices to speak through us.

Birds Eye View Theatre Company walking in the footprints of the women who came before our time.

Emily Cox, 2014.

Works Cited

The Lincoln Tank Memorial. Accessed on April 21 2014, http://www.lincolntankmemorial.co.uk/aboutus.html.

Emily Cox, 2014.

A day in the life of the Choreographer

A day in the life of the Birds Eye View Theatre Choreographer is as easy as the waltz. It’s a simple case of One, Two, Three.

Not enough time in the day

09:00(ish) Awake, Two, Three.

09:30 Breakfast, Two, Three.

10:00 Shower, Two, Three.

10:45 Leave house, Two, Three.

11:00 Directors Meeting Two… to discuss how the previous week’s rehearsals went; how successful they were or how they have sparked new ideas for our devising process. Based on that discussion we progress onto what we would like to achieve in the upcoming week of rehearsals and then continue to plan each of our 5 rehearsal sessions; who is going to lead each session, the layout of that rehearsal and how it contributes to the development of our show…Three!

14:00 Lunch, Two, Three.

15:00 A Waltz ‘Reverse Turn’ of events: back to bed to write a detailed plan for the upcoming dance rehearsal. I plan every rehearsal in the same format: a fun, energetic game to start, then a good warm-up, then I introduce a new dance/movement idea e.g. basic foxtrot step, and then develop the basic step over corner to corner exercises (as one example of an exercise), next I plan for putting the cast into partners and teaching them to dance the steps they have just learnt, as a pair. Based on how quickly the cast pick up the steps and how confidently they are dancing them, I will have a routine for them to try should they be strong enough; if they are not, it will be saved for the next two, three dance rehearsals to develop further.

17:00 Break, Tea for… Two, or Three.

17:30 Find appropriate music, Two, Three. (I feel I should elaborate “appropriate music”! By this I mean if I am teaching Waltz in the session I need to find a variety of music with a strong Waltz beat, or the Foxtrot, or Castle-step etc based on which dance is being taught).

19:00 The Choreographer signs off for the day, after watching some beautiful dance films and video clips for inspiration with a cup of tea and a One, Two, Three.

“It’s a long way to Sincerely Yours”

We reach that point in production where the devising has just begun, the research has been collated and the directing team are putting in place all the big, small, important and on some occasions ridiculous ideas that will be sewn together to create ‘Sincerely Yours’. As a director, it is important to remember as many of the ideas and research materials that we have collected over the past month and a half; all the playing and experimenting and now start cherry picking the best of it all to create our performance.

Mooney, C 2014

(Charlotte Mooney, 2014)

We are working currently on our “big scene”, otherwise known as ‘The Factory Scene’. The scene is set in a cotton mill in Lincolnshire (keeping it local!) where the women are working the home front while the boys are away at war. They are a representation of the British war machine; sewing plane wings, making stretches of material for further development and any cotton based resource that would be needed for the war effort. As the dance director, I took inspiration from the stories and history we have learned over the past couple of months from the archives, the care homes, the family stories and history books that it was the professional nature of the women working like machines back home to “keep the home fires burning”. Therefore, I chose to show this machine like system of women in the factories through a combination of dance, physical theatre and tightly choreographed movement to create an industrial appearance.


(Imperial War Museum, Accessed on March 14th 2014)

The whole scene is uniformed, precise and powerful to show how professional and hard working the women were in their positions back home. The scene includes tap dancing to create the sounds of the war machine and the factory itself; to give the piece pace and rhythm, and as the demand for materials increases the pace has the ability to increase, thus creating a sense of chaos. I have included a devised broom/sweeping routine in this scene as well, to show the domesticity of the women and how they kept a clean environment within which to work; vital when in the cotton mills especially. The different noises made by the brooms based on which part of the broom you use creates a completely different tone to the piece; the sweep, the hard knocks, the slides all add layers to the rhythm of the home war machine.


(Louise Pearson, March 2014)

Then I move onto the inclusion of the cotton sheets themselves, creating patterns and shapes to add creativity and fun into a scene that would otherwise be very simple. What I love about this scene is it’s universal nature; it could be any type of factory, anywhere in England, any war but the focus on how the women worked so professionally, and how they responded to increase in demand or any personal issues did not hinder their work. The women of the WW1 cotton mills were machines, were providers, were the solidarity of the home front war effort and we should be proud of our heritage.

Works Cited

Charlotte Mooney, March 2014.
Imperial War Museum, accessed on http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195286 on 14th March 2014.
Louise Pearson, March 2014.