It had promised to be a breathtaking spectacle of dance, music and drama and Tigress did not disappoint. Thousands of people packed the Castle Grounds during three thrilling performances of the community production which left them amazed and inspired by the wealth of talent Tamworth has to offer.
Working alongside industry experts from the nationally-acclaimed, award-winning Motionhouse performance company, hundreds of local school children, dancers, singers artists and drummers came together to tell the tale of Tamworth’s Saxon Warrior Queen Ethelfleda and the remarkable part she played in defending the country from the Vikings.
The show was seen by almost 5,000 people who watched in awe as the story was brought to life through physical dance by young performers and a powerful original score played by drummers, bands and the combined voices of Tamworth choir members.
Gasps came up from the crowd as the battle scene played out to dramatic effect against the stunning backdrop of Tamworth Castle; using the environment in a way that has never been seen before. Hand-held flares added to the atmosphere, especially as light fell during the Saturday evening performance.
The vocal abilities of Birmingham Conservatoire soprano Eleanor Hodkinson as Ethelfleda impressed as her powerful victory song filled the Castle Grounds and beyond, while a huge Mercian flag – made from individual squares of wool knitted by Tamworth residents – was theatrically flung out over the motte.
The victory of the Saxons over the Vikings culminated in the unveiling of a striking stained glass window design on fabric, which was made by volunteers and clients of the Tamworth Wellbeing and Cancer Centre.
The huge outdoor project was the centre-piece of I Am Tamworth; a year-long celebration of the arts being organised by Tamworth Borough Council’s Arts & Events team.
Other groups involved in the project included Tamworth Dance Company, Tamworth Enterprise College, Landau Forte QEMS Sixth Form, Tamworth Voices, Tamworth Ladies Choir, Tamworth Male Voice Choir, Amington Band, Belgrave Taiko Drummers, Tolsons Mill Craft group, artist Maggie Carney and fashion designer Rebecca Healy, who designed the costume worn by Queen Ethelfleda.
Children from schools and community groups were also involved in designing banners which formed a key part of the production. These included Thomas Barnes Primary School, St Gabriel’s Catholic Primary School, Dosthill School, Two Rivers School, St Elizabeth’s Catholic Primary School, Coton Green Primary School, Rawlett and the Community Café.
Tigress was created and directed by Motionhouse artistic director, Kevin Finnan MBE, who was also choreographer and movement director for the Paralympic Games 2012 opening ceremony.
Kevin said: “I am so proud of all our performers. For me this is what it’s all about – giving young people opportunities to take part in performance is such an important experience for them.
“We worked really hard to create work of a high standard that everyone can be proud of. That was certainly the case after the three shows in Tamworth. They were impressive, slick and professional.
“From the outset I wanted to create a show where the people of Tamworth were the focus and I think I have achieved this. It was all about the local performers and Motionhouse working together. Tigress is something many of them will never forget being a part of and I think the value of that is immeasurable.”
And for the Tamworth people involved, working alongside such top names in the business was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Many took to social media as soon as the performance had ended to express their delight.
Amber Cordon said: “Today was the last time to work with these amazing dancers; I will never forget this.”
Hannah (@hnorthern13) said: “Had such a great time working on Tigress with Motionhouse….so grateful for the experience!” While Phoebs (@phoebeemmaa) tweeted: “Had an amazing weekend performing Tigress with the Motionhouse company. Made amazing memories.”
Feedback from members of the audience was similarly glowing, with comments including ‘brilliant performance by all involved’, ‘great show, very impressive’ and ‘loved it so much I’ll be back for tomorrow as well’.
Pictures by David Easen of Mease Valley Photography and White Partridge Media