The story of Kett’s Rebellion intermingles with modern-day acts of challenge in this genre-bending performance staged on a Norwich heath.
Rebel Rabble, devised by Limbik Theatre and backed by Norwich Theatre, takes a loose history of the 16th century rebellion against the dividing up of common land led by Norfolk farmer Robert Kett and interweaves it with modern-day challenges to the ‘accepted’ way of doing things.
The story is presented as an audio guide, with a small audience wearing ‘silent disco’ headphones and watching an anonymous group of hooded and masked (through apparently friendly) bunch of Kett’s supporters as together we traverse Norwich’s Mousehold Heath.
The heath was at the heart of the rebellion but is today a popular place for dog walkers and families to take a stroll in nature, with several bemused visitors getting temporarily caught up in proceedings – a subtle reflection of the importance of common land that Kett may have appreciated.
We also hear recordings of people’s memories of their own real-life acts of rebellion, and three fictionalised stories that see characters challenge the accepted norms on life after Covid; an older woman’s place in society; and the impact of property speculation.
The piece admits that its ‘history’ is somewhere short of accurate – a tree is identified as Kett’s “oak of reformation” although the actual tree was felled sometime in the mid-20th century – but nonetheless Ben Samuels and Sarah Johnson’s script makes for an affecting and engaging tale, that skilfully meshes the actions of the past with our modern sensibilities.
The tech is seamless – and used playfully at times – with Samuels’ soundtrack placing us in the thick of things, through clever virtual 3D techniques. Excellent use is made of Mousehold’s actual terrain to frame the action through diverse vantage points, even though we venture through only a fraction of the heath.
With just two dozen tickets per show and a site-specific production this is a very special show and a treat to explore and enjoy. While Kett’s rebellion ended in failure, some its aims did eventually come to fruition, and its energy and bravery to challenge the status quo can still inspire – something Rebel Rabble, with its own innovations, does in spades.
- Rebel Rabble concludes with performances on 1 & 2 October. Tickets from Norwich Theatre.