Spirited, is Explore the Arch theatre company’s magical new outdoor festive show, opening on Monday 21st December – an ingenious adventure for six spirited viewers at any one performance.

Spirited is a tale of quest for a life that suits. In this contemporary retelling of 12th Century writer, Marie de France’s vibrant folk story, The Lais of the Ash Tree, exuberant female characters tackle challenges that, as the repeated refrain of the play emphasises, “are both alike and unlike your own.” The multi-disciplinary Explore the Arch team joyfully magnify the mischief as they celebrate the rich, visual splendour of medieval manuscript illustration. As the title of the story that inspired the work suggests, the production honours the magnificent ash tree at the venue, a remarkable one-hundred-and-thirty-year-old standard and weeping ash graft, which becomes a Gothic abbey for the purposes of the play.

Audiences embark on a magical promenade outdoor show around the house

Audiences embark on a magical promenade outdoor show around the house with familiar Christmas emblems such as a new-born baby on a journey, embraced in a different way from the traditional Christmas story. The narrative of women mustering resolve to tackle their chaotic Christmas domestic dramas is enriched by the medieval additions of a cockerel and a dog, demonstrating the same plucky resolve as their human counterparts. The 2020 state of flux resonates in the world of the play, where a standard life is not offered to the viewer – life is something unknown, to be explored.

Beautiful seating around the exterior of the house has been crafted by artists Issi and Mark Fisher and offers the audience the gifts of shelter and warmth. The third gift in the production is the story. This starts inside the house and tumbles out to meet the audience and to lead you where it wants to go. “Folk tales tend to do that,” explains musician-performer Alice Beadle.

Marie De France

The contemporary significance of the rule of six resonates in the intake of six young apprentices to the abbey, a truth from the twelfth century, and in the theatre company’s choice of a production for just six viewers. “This show is outdoors for six socially-distanced viewers because we want viewers and our team to feel completely safe and happily immerse in the fun. It’s been a lively challenge designing comforts for an outdoor midwinter experience, and it’s taken us all outside to work as we create this show – which is healthy,” says theatre maker Gail Borrow. “Make sure you dress for midwinter!”

To secure tickets at this beautiful domestic status venue in Charles Road, St Leonards on Sea, visit the company’s website: explorethearch.com/spirited. Viewers booking an entire show with the purchase of six tickets at £15 each (no booking fee) have control of whom they explore with. If gathering a group of six is not for you, individual tickets will be on sale from 10th December at £15 + booking fee. Advanced booking is essential, and due to the limited capacity, early booking is advised. The production opens on winter solstice, Monday 21st December and continues till 4th January, with shows at various times in the evening. The length of the show is 50 minutes. 

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