Maggie Cameron caught The Lawnmowers at the Discovery Museum Newcastle with their Unlimited commission 'Boomba down the Tyne'
Boomba down the Tyne is a collaboration between the Lawnmowers, a long established theatre company comprised of people with learning difficulties dedicated to effecting social change, Opaxoro and Orquestra Sertau, thereby bringing together artists with learning difficulties from the North East of England and Brazil.
The show at the Discovery Museum was a very well attended event with a mixed audience of all ages and a buzz of excitement was running through the Great Hall, where it was staged. Paddy one of the artistic directors thanked everyone for coming and explained that one of the reasons for this particular tour was that it enabled the Lawnmowers to showcase their diverse elements including theatre, song and dance.
Although the stage set was simple it was well crafted and evocative of the journey, which was at the heart of the piece. Seemingly mundane use of props such as blue silk for water was strangely effective and a huge puppet at times manoeuvred by three people was definitely the highlight of the show for me.
The plain everyday workman-like garb of the players – whilst still managing to evoke images of the Far East - contrasted strongly with the vividly coloured costumes of the trio of Brazilian dancers whose myriad performances certainly added to the air of fantasy and mystery. I found myself thinking of the Arabian Nights tales which kept me engaged as a child, with each story unfolding into the next.
The dance routines themselves threaded the unspoken performance, weaving in and out through the players, alternating between energetic and exuberant and enticing and deliberate. All were well-choreographed and always the music resonated in time to each well-rehearsed step.
The music played a strong counterpoint to the expressive and often graceful performance of the players. At times the deep, pulsing beat which was strongly rhythmic filled the hall catching the audience up in its spell. For me though it was the evocative melodies which were used to carry the story forward which stood out. They were simple, effective refrains which created an entrancing atmosphere.
I was impressed by the way each strand of the performance, song, and dance which could have stood alone was used to create a show which was greater than the sum of its parts. Judging by the rapturous applause when the last triumphant note died away, the audience were of the same mind.
However, more was to come in the form of the Samba ceilidh. This necessitated clearing a large space in the centre of the room which lessened the momentum somewhat and gave the fainthearted, of which I was one, a chance to formulate their excuses for not joining in.
None the less, I’m pleased to say that the majority of the audience did enthusiastically take part and there was much hilarity as the beat swept them almost literally at times, off their feet. It was a truly enjoyable afternoon.
Lawnmowers Theatre Company will be performing a Samba Ceilidh with with Opaxoro Da Apae & Orchestra Sertao in The Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre on Sunday 2 September at 3pm