A few weeks ago a friend tagged me in a post on Facebook, she said there was an event happening in E17 that sounded like my kind of thing. She included a link in the post to something called The Walthamstow Mysteries, an event taking place on the marsh that had the strap line “Somewhere you know, nowhere you’ve been……” I don’t think she could have found anything that was more my kind of thing if she tried. The Walthamstow Mysteries is a site specific promenade theatre performance. It’s called promenade because it takes place in more than one location on the marsh, the audience follows the actors as they move between scenes and locations. A long time ago I worked for a theatre company called the London Bubble, they also produced outdoor promenade theatre. I developed a real love for this kind of performance, so promenade theatre comimg to the mighty marsh is like having several birthdays come all at once.
We met our guide outside the Coppermill Pub at 2:30 and along with a number of others we headed towards the marsh. Along the way we were met by an accordion player who accompanied us on our journey. You can just go straight to the marsh, but the procession down Coppermill lane adds something special to the event. As we walked I realised that the accordion has such a unique sound, especially as it drifts through the trees and brambles on the way to the marsh. Arriving on Coppermill Field we had a short wait before being led to the edge of the short grass and herded in to a semicircle. A gentlemen in costume appeared from the grass and started talking to us, before long he was joined by three other characters. This opening scene of The Walthamstow Mysteries is true feast for the senses, music, laughter, shouting and a feeling of uncertainty, wondering what’s going to happen next.
The characters led us across the field to the big table where the action continued. By this point we had picked up a number of new audience members. With this kind of performance there is non of the stuffy late comers policy like you get in theatres, people just join in, and perhaps wonder what on earth is happening. I don’t really want to spoil the story, after all it is called The Walthamstow Mysteries, but if you do go and see it on sunday watch out for the musical cow.
One of my favourite sections of thr play takes place under the magnificent weeping willows which stand at the edge of Coppermill Field. These are no ordinary trees, these are the trees that my younger self dreamt of. If you close your eyes and think of the best place ever to build a den, you would probably think of these trees. Standing under the curved boughs , enclosed by leaf and surrounded by dappled light was really rather magical. Admittedly, the trains rumbling past just beyond the fence isn’t so magical, but the actors deal with the noise interruption really well. I think everything about this production is pretty magical, being out on the marshes, seeing tales of Walthamstow bought to life, what better way to spend an afternoon. The Walthamstow Mysteries is on again tomorrow, meet outside the Coppermill Pub at either 12:00 or 14:30. Even if you think theatre isn’t your thing, go along and let the marsh and characters take you on a magical mystery tour of Walthamstow.