What is it about the great whales that ignites our imaginations so much? Once hunted murderously by us (and Liverpool played its sorry part in that trade too, with a Liverpool-built fleet operating out of the Mersey for the best part of a century), now we capture them with harmonies, not harpoons. Witness Laurie Anderson’s gorgeous One White Whale, or Kate Bush’s Moving.
This weekend, our fascination with all things cetacea sees a new audio-visual performance take place in St Bride’s Church.
Whale Song promises a ‘sea story set in a library’ and a ‘love story cast out to sea’ – with original music by Mark Magill, and words by Rebecca Sharp.
“It’s like storytelling for adults,” Rebecca tells SevenStreets. “The show weaves between the narration and the songs as one continuous performance, with the animated illustrations up on a big screen providing a backdrop throughout. We’ve made a special poster-book with all of the text and some of Gill Smith’s gorgeous illustrations, so people can have the story to take home and read again if they want.”
Like those other giants who walked amongst us recently, Whale Song cleverly weaves together folklore and fable with lashings of poetic licence – and entwines itself into the fabric of the modern city, too. But this theatrical event promises to be an altogether more intimate affair.
“It’s pretty whimsical on the face of it,” Rebecca says. “It’s about a whale called Lucky, who has become troubled over the years by things like noise pollution and all the stories he’s overheard swimming around in our oceans.
“So he’s storing all of this up inside – stories, songs, other people’s problems, everything he’s picked up over time – and wants to find someone he can share it all with.”
With a head full of stories, where else is a whale to head than a library? Yes, technically ours is closed, but this is a whale story: where myth and magic collide. And Central Library isn’t surrounded by scaffold.
“The whale comes ashore and meets Joanne in our version of Central Library. She’s a bit of a loner, and a librarian who’s fighting to keep the library open,” Rebecca explains. “They see a kindred spirit in each other and work out a plan together. The story references lots of Liverpool history, as well as maritime history and sea shanties.”
With prop design from Landbaby (at the Bluecoat), a specially made short animated film, and a band of Liverpool musicians – including Annamarie Owens – brought together for one haunting night only, Whale Song promises to be an immersive, otherworldly experience: prepare for it to swallow you up.
Whale Song, Friday 6th July, 8.00pm
St Bride’s Church
Support from Ukulele Uff and Lonesome Dave