Following on from their very popular A CHRISTMAS CAROL CANTATA, which has been performed regularly in North Staffordshire for the past few years, Claybody Theatre’s Deborah McAndrew has once again collaborated with composer Ashley Thompson, to create a new musical fable – GREENWOOD DREAMS.

Exploring themes of isolation, the need for heroes, and a longing to connect with the natural world, GREENWOOD DREAMS follows the story of a child in lockdown, who lifts her head from her home-schooling work and gazes out of the window at the empty street. A blackbird sings and the child begins a vivid daydream… The street transforms into an ancient forest, and the child follows the birds into the trees to meet the greatest English hero of all – Robin Hood.

Sung by an enthusiastic cohort of local people, recording remotely in their homes, and supported by the early instrumentalists from Piva, GREENWOOD DREAMS is a poignant and fun community piece, which ultimately invites us all to have hope for the future. A specially commissioned film has been created to accompany the audio online – featuring many of the singers and musicians.

Artistic Director, Conrad Nelson said: “In this crisis, with live theatre impossible, we still wanted to carry on making work somehow. In difficult times we turn to the Arts to get us through, and it was really important to us that we were able to make something for our community company. Participation in the Arts is more difficult, but a choral piece seemed to be something we could definitely do. 53 community singers participated in this project, as well as the small professional creative team. We were also joined by the amazing musicians of Piva, who gave the piece authentic medieval sounds.”

Librettist Deborah McAndrew said: “Ashley (Thompson) and I have wanted to create a new piece together for some time now, and we’d talked a lot about Robin Hood. As a child Robin Hood was my great hero, and I had an old book of stories which I read dozens and dozens of times. The first chapter in my book was called Greenwood Dreams. This title always gave me a shiver of excitement and wonder as I entered the world of the young Robin, dreaming about where life might take him. As Ashley and I started work this seemed to be the perfect title for our piece, and for our times.”

Composer Ashley Thompson said: “This turned out to be far more ambitious than we’d ever imagined. I haven’t heard of another music project on this scale during lockdown, that is, a totally new piece conceived, written and composed, then learnt and recorded, and mixed into a finished work of 7 movements lasting over 20 minutes. It was both a mammoth and enjoyable task for me, pulling together over 40 hours of separate voice and instrumental recordings to create the finished piece. In a similar vein to our Carol cantata, I have woven at least 9 old English melodies through the original composition for
listeners to spot. Everyone involved is incredibly proud of Greenwood Dreams, and we hope that people enjoy listening to it and, in the future, perhaps singing it for themselves in schools and choirs across England and beyond.”

The play is free to access from starting from Thursday 19 November.

Claybody Theatre is a Stoke-on-Trent based company whose work is inspired by the lives and experiences of local people. Founded by playwright Deborah McAndrew and director Conrad Nelson, hugely successful site-specific productions include: Dirty Laundry (2017) Hot Lane (2018) and The D Road (2019) at Spode Works, Stoke – which all featured the Claybody Community Company. The Claybody Carollers are a distinct group of singers and musicians who have performed A Christmas Carol Cantata with the company over a number of years. Claybody also makes podcasts, including a new audio drama – The Call – created during lockdown, and available now via the website. Their Patron is the award-winning actor, Toby Jones.

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