Kew Steam Museum sits about 50 yards from the Thames, near to what was Brentford Wharf in the days of Pocahontas. She reputedly departed from very nearby here on her ill fated return to Virginia. It was therefore quite prudent that we should be performing in the building two days before the 400th anniversary of her death. Perhaps, theoretically, 400 years to the day since she last set foot on British soil before her untimely death.
It was incredible.
We performed for three Native American Chiefs from Algonquian Tribes, and many natives of Virginia, US, as well as 120 others who were there as invited guests. We were nervous, but Kew Steam Museum kindly offered their facilities to us for the whole day allowing us to acclimatise and to gain a little confidence.
Then, we travelled up river, (not literally) in the footsteps of our heroine and we found ourselves in Gravesend on the anniversary of Pocahontas' death.
Gravesham Council had pulled out all the stops, they poured water from the James River into the Thames to show unity and peace, while a flag flapped in the wind, half designed by kids in Virginia and half by kids in Kent. There were speeches, dignitaries, and a service at St George's Church with an incredible sermon from the Bishope of Rochester about friendship and peace. As an Athiest, I was shocked that his words struck such a chord with me.
Then it was our turn. We spent the late afternoon working with the Woodville Theatre for Youth group who had created a ten minute prologue to our play, and it was great, filled with energy and set the night up perfectly. What wasn't as useful were the creaking floorboards and indecisive whisperings of their parents as they decided whether having now seen their kids they should head home. Many of them chose in-opportune moments throughout the play to depart, which again, was not ideal.
But those that stayed seemed to love the play and though the actors suffered a little from the distraction of an unfocused audience they enjoyed the opportunity to tell the story on such an historical night. We did two further performances in Gravesend to modest audiences who again seemed to follow the story and the character shifts and had nothing but lovely things to say on the feedback form.
For me the end of this week marks the end of the project being a commemorative vessel and instead launches it as a stand alone artistic project. This weeks activities were about commemorating an incredible anniversary in US/UK relations, next week is about trying to find an artistic partner to allow the story and the history to have a wider audience.