Darkness – High Peak Community Arts

“I had a dream, which was not all a dream” 

On 2nd November three audiences were taken through the chambers of Peak Cavern, led through a dystopic world of uncertainty, panic and thoughts of the future. The performers had been on a journey which began in early September.

After a tour around Pooles Cavern (also known as Devil’s Arse), the groups decided on two themes – Trapped and Lost & Found.

Kaleidoscope Youth Theatre, from Buxton Opera House took the Trapped theme. Their director, Sian Dudley, found the poem Darkness, by Lord Byron which they all loved and used as a base for their sections.

Sian requested a sense of grandeur juxtaposed with a post-apocalyptic feel. She spoke of suits and ballgowns that would end up wet and muddy by the end of the show. I did point out our tiny budget, 3 shows in quick succession and that it was being performed in a cave in November. I also had to come up with a concept that allowed for some design input from the girls at the children’s home and something they would be capable of making.

I suggested a Steampunk vibe using jackets from charity shops as a starting point and customising them – slashing, zips, safety pins, lacing, feathers, net, belts, bling etc. For the girls, I bought kneelength net tutus to give that ballgown feel but more practical for doing physical work in a cave and within our budget. Big hair, mad make-up, boots, scarves and gloves (it was very cold) added to the post-apocalyptic look. As each jacket was different, the costume team were able to follow their own ideas. There was some sewing involved but not much. We also used creative cutting, UHU, glue guns and kimble (shop tag) guns to attach the embellishments and change the silhouette of the jackets.

Meanwhile Fairfield DreamScheme had run with an idea for a mysterious disappearance, and more mystery when the group is reunited. They worked together to devise the story and script. The direction was taken on by DreamScheme member Tamara Lacey as part of her Arts Award. She also played the main part of Eve, the character who disappeared and is later found having aged 50 years. This meant creating a double costume. They had requested a top hat and the idea of a traveller. I suggested the feel of a female Doctor Who which they liked.

As the second costume had to look identical to the first but as though it had been worn in a cave for 50 years, we had to buy two sets brand new. I chose a long coat to give that Doctor Who feel but also so we didn’t need two sets of the underneath costume and only need to change her coat in a cold cave. I distressed one of the coats and top hats using sand paper, a wire brush, paint and car spray. Rather than try to find a wig that looked like Tamara’s hair but older, I bought two long curly brown wigs. I cut one to shoulder length. The other was left long.I back combed it used white hairspray to make her look old and wild.

Three video clips from Darkness can be found on YouTube. Show photographs by DMC Photographic.

This was a High Peak Community Arts project managed by Sophie Mackreth.