Drama students performed three consecutive performances last month at the Western Approaches Museum as part of the Battle of the Atlantic 80th anniversary commemorations, which culminate this May across Liverpool.
The students paired up with the museum in Liverpool to help tell the untold stories of those who served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) on Merseyside, affectionately referred to as Wrens.
The Wrens helped to develop the tactical manoeuvres of the war at sea that would eventually ensure allied success in the Atlantic. Their work took place in secret at the HQ in Liverpool, and this became the focus of the students’ performance.
The immersive shows took place on Monday 27 March with three audiences lucky enough to explore the underground bunker museum as the drama students used their promenade performance to give an insight into the ‘Secret Life of the Wren’ – the title of their performance.
Georgia Hays, Head of Visitor Experience at Western Approaches, said: “I thought the performance was fantastic, I can see how much effort and research the students put into it to focus on details. I thought the storyline flow was very clever and portrayed a very emotive look at the story of Western Approaches and it was very capturing and entertaining. I love this style of theatre and I really enjoyed watching it.”
Creative producer and director, Sarah Hogarth, from LJMU’s Screen School, said: “We've had a wonderful time creating this performance working in Derby House and unpicking all of its secrets. We have become very attached to this building and its stories, and we are very sad to say goodbye to this very special project.”
Saffron Gotch, Level 5 Drama student, said: “Working on this project made me realise that there are so many different possibilities when it comes to drama, it doesn't just belong on the stage. The building itself was fascinating and I personally have a newfound interest in women who served in the war.
“It was a completely unique experience that I can confidently say I would never have got to experience if it wasn't for the course, and I probably would never again. It has taught me a lot about different performance types, the importance of an audience and how to professionally put a piece on.”
Other ways that LJMU will mark the Battle of the Atlantic 80th anniversary
Drama students have already performed an adapted play ‘Blowing a Raspberry at Hitler: A story of WATU, the WRNS and the War at Sea’, based in part on Simon Parkin’s book A Game of Birds and Wolves to an audience earlier this year. They will now perform a re-worked version of the production during the main commemorative events taking place in the final week of May.
The three free performances will take place on Wednesday 24, Thursday 25 and Friday 26 May at 7.30pm at the John Foster Drama Studio, 22 Hope Street, Liverpool L1 9BY. Tickets can be reserved via Eventbrite.
As part of the city’s programme of events, the Centre for Port and Maritime History will host a one-day conference on Saturday 20 May, in association with the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Trust, considering the history and legacies of the battle 80 years on. Registration is now open for the conference.
Experts from the LJMU Maritime Centre are scoping out an interactive display opportunity with the Western Approaches Museum and other opportunities to celebrate LJMU’s maritime links throughout 2023.
LJMU 200 years of history and heritage – looking back and navigating the future
LJMU has its own unique ties with the maritime history of Liverpool. In 1852 it opened its Nautical School and College, reflecting Liverpool’s status in the 19th century as one of the world’s leading ports.
Since then, LJMU has developed its education and research offer dedicated to the maritime sector, through specialised courses offered at the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, which also houses the LJMU Maritime Centre, connecting industry regionally and internationally to plug future skills gaps.
Maritime ties will be celebrated this year as LJMU marks its own milestone anniversary. Celebrating our bicentenary, always ahead of our time.