Operation Overlord, Trebah Amphitheatre's main project for the 2019 season has come to an end.
Taking its name from the codename for the Battle of Normandy, Trebah’s inaugural project of its educational and outreach programme, Operation Overlord, encompassed the June’ 2019’s events and performances, which were all also named after military operations.
After much hard work and preparation, Operation Overlord kicked off on June 1 2019. The Visitor Centre was transformed into an exhibition space commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the American troops that left from Trebah Beach. Highlights were a displayed visual and written history that utilised personal accounts and newly-colourised photos taken at Trebah, Mawnan and Falmouth during the war, a diorama model of how Trebah Beach would have looked at the time of its military occupation and newly-sourced local footage of Trebah, Mawnan and Falmouth from 1944.
Trebah Cafe was also kitted out in a giant deconstructed American flag, taking care to only include the 48 stars that were present on Old Glory during the Second World War.
Being in the Visitor Centre, the exhibition was free to view and was a great success. Furthermore, it gave our visitors a taster of the the other events that would be held through the month.
Chewing gum, doughnuts, new nylons and thousands of smooth-talking, quick-witted soldiers. Cornwall will never forget the day the Yanks arrived!
Based on remarkable real wartime experiences, as well as stories recalled by the residents of Mawnan Smith, Operation Neptune commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day with the compelling story of an American GI’s experience of Cornwall at war.
From the warm plains of Maryland, USA, to the cold coastal villages of Cornwall, the play followed handsome and hopeful US 29th Infantry Division Technical Sergeant Joe Miller on his poignant journey to the Nazi-occupied beaches of Normandy, France.
The 5 sell-out nights of performances took place on foot around the garden, and was received with high acclaim. Finishing on the beach, the show took audiences on an emotional rollercoaster before finally bidding farewell to the 29ers as they left for Normandy.
Amphitheatre Co-oridnator and Operation Neptune Director Guy Watson said "We’ve received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and have met some truly remarkable people through the development of this project."
Here’s what some of our audience had to say:
“The story was terrific, taking us on a rollercoaster through comedy, history and finally, poignancy, at the ending on the beach. The mist rolling in helped disguise a little tear of emotion.”
“For those of us who lived through that time in 1944 it very cleverly painted a vivid and moving picture of that period, and at the end we just continued to sit on the wall on the hard and soaked up the emotional atmosphere.”
To engage with both young and old, a 360° micro-film, set in Mawnan in 1943, was created for use on Virtual Reality headsets.
In partnership with Hall for Cornwall Youth Theatre and Youth Dance, Trebah created a five minute long 360° film entitled “Operation Bolero”.
The film recreated three short scenes from the 1940s and the stories, played out by an authentically costumed cast of over fifty performers, were based on real events that happened in the local area during WWII.
The film was shown to many local residents and individuals living in care homes across Falmouth as a starting point for conversations about “life in Cornwall during WWII”. These conversations were used to inform the script for “Operation Neptune”, Trebah’s epic promenade performance piece for 2019.
Headsets were set up alongside our exhibition in the Visitor Centre, allowing everyone the chance to come and view “Operation Bolero”.
The final part of Operation Overlord was getting local schools involved. Working with a local dance company, many schools came together to perform their own show inspired by the US 29th Infantry leaving from Polgwidden Cove, now Trebah Beach.
In addition to this, and with help from a team of professional artists, children created “Gas Mask Memory Boxes”, “Ammunition Box Films” and “Washing Line Poetry” which were displayed both in our exhibition and in the garden.
We received the following feedback from one local school: “I cannot stress just how much my class have got out of the whole project and to see pupils gain so much confidence.”
“The tribute that Trebah has paid to the 29ers over this month has been outstanding. So many people have been made more aware of the relationship between this area and D-Day, not least the children in the village school, who have benefited enormously from the ongoing relationship with Trebah.”
With the rest of the season ahead of us, we hope to continue as we have started and produce another memorable year of theatre, dance, music and comedy from Trebah's Amphitheatre.