Hiding behind the attempts we make to normalise ourselves (to be normal, think normal, look normal) there’s often dark thoughts and complex, contradictory, beliefs we hold to be true. Identifying with, and exploring, such contradictions in ourselves, it’s interesting to reflect on the contradictions we see in others; are we as understanding to the complexity of other people as we are to ourselves?
Disguising itself as a theatrical comedic think piece about the importance of keeping fit and the benefits of friendship, Daniel Bye and Boff Whalley’s ‘These Hills are ours’ explores many of the contradictions of the UK’s political, geographical and cultural history, stopping off for reflections on the freedom of expression, national heritage, cultural identity and the journey of empire building.
“It’s an interesting piece” reflects Bye “and whilst the topic seems to be about running there’s loads for non-runners to connect to”.
Indeed there is. Initially conceived as a production about a love for running (“Boff and I decided to make a show about our shared loved of running and how we used to find a local peak to run up whenever we were out on tour”) the narrative slowly moved into a think piece about the types of places our main characters enjoy running “when we looked into the history of the places we enjoyed running it was interesting to find that they were usually publicly accessible places where someone had to fight for the right to be able to walk on that path”.
Given Whalley’s time in art-punk collective Chumbawmba, it’s perhaps only natural that not only would the conversation turn in some ways to collective politics, but that there would also be subtle references to green issues and public rights; continues Bye “There’s been a number of victories in the past 100 years about providing more access in rural spaces to the public but there’s still a long way to go. For example, half of rural land in England and Wales is owned by less than 0.1% of population, and 90% of that land is inaccessible. When we think of the countryside as being accessible it’s often not the truth and I think that’s an interesting story to tell”.
Which brings us to the more punkier, introspective, side of the show; “There’s a history of civil disobedience in this country in order to gain access to certain rural places, but the show isn’t a dry history of this, it’s more about running places like Clougha Pike with a friend, places which weren’t accessible until 2005, and celebrating the people that helped make these spaces accessible for us all.”
Set out as a number of short stories (“I tell stories, Boff sings music”) which build up into a overarching narrative (“The Guardian recently called the show a musical but it’s not really, it’s more turns in a cabaret act”) These Hills is designed to help us all to reflect about our history, our future, and how we choose to spend our present; including all of our contradictions.