Yesterday I went to see a play by a small theatre company that's been on my radar for some 30 years now. They're called the Eastern Angles and they never fail to amaze me with their performances. The play itself, written especially if not exclusively for this group by Charles Way was a brilliant piece of work. 'Ragnarok' is set in Asgard, the home of the Norse gods. The action, which involves all the gods, the giants and other mythological creatures, revolves mostly around a fight for power between Loki and Odin, culminating in a final battle between the forces of the two.
The 'theatre' where this took place is a redundant aircraft hanger on the now closed American Air Base, Bentwaters in Suffolk. It's a windswept desert of a landscape - vast and flat - with oases of giant rusted junked machines that at one time pushed or pulled the mighty American B52 bombers. Naturally the hangar, as a venue and stage for this kind of play, was perfect. It's huge and echoey, and lent itself perfectly for the hall of the Norse gods. Gargantuan puppets were used for the giants which towered over the audience. There were strange eagles that flew, serpents that slithered across the floor, and of course Fenrir the wolf that never stops growing.
This theatre company employs actors who seem, for the most part, go from one small company to another, though they occasionally get roles with the biggest companies. The goddess Freya was played by Gracy Goldman who has been in Doctor Who. What is evident is they are brilliant at their work. Eastern Angles for the most part, puts on new plays with an East Anglian flavour. A few years ago I saw one about the tragic 1953 floods, when the sea came in and covered much of the local landscape, taking many lives, some of the friends of mine. I was in those floods as a 12 year old and I have to say the writer brought back memories with vivid force. Recently I saw another play about Margaret Catchpole, a local anti-heroine whose lover was a smuggler. She was transported to Australia in the 19th Century and became a real heroine there.
What is all this leading up to? Well, small theatre companies produce wonderful and well-crafted entertainment. The equivalent in my line of business must be the small publishers, who can produce excellent books. The recent rise of small publishers, especially in the science fiction and fantasy genres gives me hope that sf and fantasy is experiencing a new flowering of imaginative fiction in general. This decentralisation of literature is opening up shining new avenues to writers whose work is rejected by the large corporate publishers, whose main interest is and has to be earning money rather than producing wonderful unusual novels and collections of short stories.