SeaWorthy

Hidden City Festival 2008

‘Part play, part installation, part boat ride – an innovative and entertaining evening’

Audience member on ‘SeaWorthy’

The sea and the epic departures and arrivals across it, have defined Plymouth’s identity and development.

Less well known and acknowledged was the role that the Grade II listed Mayflower Sailing Club played in the arena of emigration from Plymouth.

It is housed in what remains of the old government run Elphinstone Emigration Depot, which between 1830 – 1890 alone saw over half a million emigrants leave Plymouth’s shores.

‘we were made prisoners and allowed no more outside the depot walls….four hundred breathing the vitiated air of one room, 100 sleeping in one bedroom, only one stove to which poor starving people can go and that covered by babies linen, which mothers are vainly trying to dry, w.c. is filthy, no comfort…. ’

Diary extract from emigrant John Hilary, 1879

Using the historic diaries of those who made these epic journeys across the sea as their starting point, Shiona Morton, playwright and Bill Wroath, installation artist, created a unique performance experience that put the audience in the role of the traveller.

An immersive, narrative led journey for all the senses started outside the Mayflower Sailing Club where audience members exchanged their tickets for boarding passes, wove its way through the building, out onto the wharf and then to a waiting boat, where the names of some of the many thousands who had set off from the same spot were read out as the boat headed into the harbour.

SeaWorthy was an unforgettable experience and a powerful insight into the forces that have compelled and continue to compel people to leave their homeland.

‘A fabulous opportunity for my working practice, to collaborate and to be mentored. A brilliant celebration of what Plymouth has to offer – it makes me want to stay in the area and develop my craft here’

Intern writer on Sea Worthy