Foresight

Performed on October 11th, 12th, 13th 2007, Foresight focuses on a real story of a German Junkers 88 bomber which crashed in May 1941in the River Tale Valley. It was performed in a marquee in a field close to where one of the four German crew fell dead after the Junkers was shot down by a British Bristol Beaufighter which took off from Colerne in Wiltshire. This is a story well known to the long-time residents of this rural area who were alive at the time. During our research of the incident, some of these people revealed photographs and artefacts which relate to the crash, including a Luftwaffe belt buckle taken from the body of one of the airmen.

The play resulted from a Community Theatre School John Somers organised in 2004. This comprised Saturday morning workshops, each of three-hours, on writing theatre, directing, acting, scenic design, technical aspects of theatre, music and marketing. The writing sessions focused on participants writing short scenes which were then acted out. Subsequently, John Somers worked over two years with first-time playwright Rose Watts to bring ‘Foresight’ to production quality.

Two hundred and thirty five people of all ages – from three to eighty three - were involved in staging this play - sandwich cutters, parking attendants, actors, technical staff and many others. Original music was written, and instrumental and singing workshops were held. Scenic design workshops were held to create the set and the play was performed in a huge marquee. It was a promenade production so the standing audience moved about to view scenes which took place on five stages and also amongst the standing audience.

Each night at the end of the performance, the audience was led from the marquee to a place near to where one of the Germans fell dead. Here, lit by blazing torches, the son of the farmer who found the body told his father’s story; as he did so, a Second World War aircraft flew over the audience and on up the valley, echoing the final journey of the Junkers 88 in 1941. We simulated the crash further up the valley.

Extensive research was conducted on the incident and a large exhibition was displayed in one section of the marquee. The exhibition included the binoculars through which an air-rai warden watched the plane crash and fragments of the Junkers which had been found at the crash site with metal detectors. Post production, much of this material was lodged in the local museum so that all may have access to it in the future. Audience members were brought from the village in 1940s’ vintage buses and as they approached the marquee they experienced a Second World War vehicle display.

The exhibition also contained television monitors which played interviews with those who witnessed the incident. At the end of the play, after the aircraft had passed overhead, audience members came back to the marquee for drinks and supper whilst they talk to actors and one another. A relative of one of the German air crew came from Germany to see the play and stay in a participant’s home.