By Sophie Shaw

Jane Packman and Ben Pacey, cofounders Dens and Signals
Jane Packman and Ben Pacey, cofounders Dens and Signals

The Feast of the Dead is nearly here, but what can we expect from this most unusual of banquets? HIP puts this question to Dens and Signals co director, Ben Pacey and performer Fran Millican-Slater as they make their final preparations for the feast.

‘The idea is that everyone in the room is a ghost from the Battle of Hastings’ begins Pacey, ‘one of the thousands of fallen soldiers whose names never made it into the history books. These new ghosts suddenly realise they’re dead, and discover how much they have in common’.

So what can a guest at the table expect? ‘When you arrive you’ll be greeted by your hosts; Brian Logan and me, and Chris Preece, our musician. We’ll all be dressed as fallen soldiers’ says Millican-Slater. ‘The costumes will be evocative but quite lo-fi.’ Pacey adds ‘the overall look we’re going for is a relatively sophisticated nativity play’. Guests are invited to dress as ghosts of the 1066 battlefield, but it’s not obligatory. Some face paints and costume items will be available for those who either didn’t get something together in time or who want to see how they feel on the night.

As the room fills up your hosts will begin to address the room as a whole. ‘We aren’t going to be pretending to be other people, we’re there as ourselves’ says Millican-Slater. ‘We’re using more of a storytelling approach than a full on, polished performance, we’ll perform, read, and sing, and some parts of the story might involve a bit of banter from the tables’.

What is said will follow a loose retelling of history, but focusing on the impact which this dispute between kings had on the people who got caught up in the carnage. ‘The people of 1066 were caught up in a moment of cataclysmic change, and we’ll explore that sense of power impacting on ordinary people’s lives. Some may have felt helpless, others may have chosen to fight or resist’ says Pacey ‘obviously some of this is very relevant to 2016 and we’re all really interested to see where this goes’.

And all of this will be interspersed with the meal itself, a three course extravaganza inspired by the ingredients and cooking of the eleventh century. During the meal there’ll be time for everyone to eat and talk, and perhaps the chat around the two long banqueting tables will turn to the changes affecting us in 2016, and those things we cherish and want to hold close.

This imagined root through history will be interspersed with music from Preece, as well as a new composition by Lewis Gibson, performed by a community choir formed especially for Feast of the Dead.

Feast of the Dead takes place at The Stade Hall, 7 – 10pm

Wednesday 21 (preview), Thursday 22, Friday 23, Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 September – an additional date, unpublished in the Root 1066 programme.