‘It was the most touching play of deep interactions and conversations about painful but loving memories.’ Those words come from one of several impressed reviewers that have caught up with the world premiere of multi-award-winning writer Lita Doolan’s play The Wyre Lady Of Fleetwood – about the gentrification of Fleetwood fishing lofts – which continues online at this year’s Brighton Fringe until 11 July 2021.
Follow a life story from a glamorous beach to a gritty fish dock on the Fylde peninsula where a family finds out if the sea is a friend or foe.
The ‘Wyre Lady’ of the show’s title is the name of a pleasure boat used to attract visitors to the area and the piece juxtaposes sea faring as a way to make a living with the benefits of tourism and ‘the lighter side of life’.
In the play a mother waits for her son Robbie to visit her from London, where he has enjoyed a successful career, appearing on magazine covers. She feels there is little that can attract him back to his Fleetwood home.
However, Robbie has seen his dad’s old fishing loft is on the market and considers heading back north ‘to seek redemption’, although he is not the only sibling to have his eyes on the prize.
The poignant story is told in the context of the Cod Wars and a decline in the fish processing industry which had a devastating affect on communities. Like many, Robbie’s mum is struggling to keep up with her rent payments and is in fear of losing her home.
As the uninhabited fisherman’s loft is left unused, will the vacant land be returned to the people? Meanwhile, the pleasure cruises on the Wyre Lady float on by.
Playwright Lita Doolan explains how her play deals with the trauma of homelessness. After surviving defeat in the Cod Wars of the 1970s Fleetwood families continue to face hardship. In the face of the local fishing industry being bought up, one woman strives to improve her situation against the challenge of unsympathetic landlords and one man tries his hardest to keep things together for his family.
Doolan points out that the issue of homelessness continues to devastate families, with charity Shelter recently stating that a million households in the UK fear losing their homes. Also topical in the context of the play is the plight of the UK fishing industry in the wake of Brexit.
The Wyre Lady Of Fleetwood pre-recorded livestream production uses a mix of audio, film and video and is performed by Julie Broadbent, Ian McShee, Bhasker Patel, Jo Phillips-Lane and Mabel Pritchard.
A critic for the Mumble Theatre website said of The Wyre Lady Of Fleetwood:
“Providing something of a storytelling bonanza, it was so rich with characters that I found myself a little lost at times, but that just contributed to the fine levels of performances by all five participants.”
This is the fourth year that Lita Doolan Productions has presented a show at the Brighton Fringe. A section of the Wyre Lady Of Fleetwood script has recently been curated and performed at Bedlam Theatre’s digital Monologue Showcase.
Previous productions have also been staged at a wide range of venues across the UK including Oxford Playhouse where Doolan won a playwriting award. Recent plays have also featured at the Brighton Digital Festival, Manchester Fringe, Dublin Pride and Melbourne Fringe, and have been produced by Selladoor and Green Curtain Theatre.
Tickets for the free 30-minute show are available via the Brighton Fringe website.