Summer dawns on Somerset’s large strawberry shaped reservoir between Axbridge and Cheddar are often glorious affairs. Golden sunrises at around 5am are a particular feast as the 1930s reservoir acts as a mirror to the sky. Here a few images of the last few days in July 2019.
Things Can Only Get Worse?, by John O’Farrell
No wonder John O’Farrell found it so hard to like Jeremy Corbyn in his book Things Can Only Get Worse?, because unlike his chums Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, Corbyn is a real socialist.
O’Farrell’s light weight left wing credentials are exposed by the way he so easily accepted the offer to become the Labour party candidate in the Eastleigh by election. He’s offered the job from Labour head office on the phone, asks his wife Jackie who is ambitious for him to be an MP and he accepts. His description of the actual selection process fails to recognize the obvious way the party rubber stamped his application when there were local Labour candidates who would have done a better job.
He’s out of touch with the voters believing Iraq should be the main issue when they are interested in jobs and the influx of immigrants who are effecting employment for locals. UKIP scoop up their votes leaving Labour far behind. How could he be so blind? Easy. He was in hock with the Blair and Brown Governments for years and came to see the world through their eyes. He wrote their jokes, had dinner with them and accepted that they were the authentic voice of Labour voters. Then came the Invasion of Iraq in 2003. The following year of 2004 saw workers of EU member states of Eastern Europe given the right the work in the UK causing major concerns about immigration among many ordinary workers and the effects on employment and finally the credit crunch in 2008.
O’Farrell and the Labour Party as a whole failed to see how this would affect their election prospects as voters looked for answers to unemployment, low wages and a decline in living standards. His blindness to these themes he unwittingly exposes in his the chapter The Sickest Man in Britain. He makes light of it all and appears to blame it all on the people of Eastleigh for not being very enlightened.
No wonder Jeremy Corbyn became leader after the years of New Labour. He may not be the most media savvy leader of the party but he is a genuine conviction politician who takes social issues seriously. It was only when he proved a hit against all the odds in the 2017 General Election that O’Farrell finally signs up to the idea that Corbyn is OK.
That said, this is a highly readable and funny book, with lots of common sense, some excellent jokes and many insights into O’Farrell’s mindset. Even if you are a true blue Tory O’Farrell’s prose and anecdotes keep the pages turning and chuckles coming – and glimpses into how those at the top of the Labour party live and how someone at the top of a media career thinks.
O’Farrell is very hard on the LibDems as you might expect but compounds his prejudice by effectively saying nobody should vote anything else but Labour or Conservative. His London bubble of thinking forgets there’s a whole world of opinion outside of the M25. There’s Northern Ireland with its own unique political divisions, the Green Party, UKIP and Scotland, plus Wales and pockets of England where low wages and economic neglect explain the vote in favour of Brexit.
The chapters on his campaign to create a new secondary school in his area are some of the most interesting as he battles to get the backing and funds for the enterprise. His conclusion is that compromise is key in getting things done as the school is not quite the one he envisaged but is eventually built and he becomes chair of the governors. But it his honesty in not knowing what to do after a row with the head teacher and with the school is in crisis that are some of the strongest sections. And then there are the jokes. Like the day in 1997 when William Hague became the leader of the Conservative Party – he notes that nobody cared as it was like TV’s Neighbours – the Tories were still going but all the big stars had left and nobody watched it anymore.
As a sequel to Things Can Only Get Better, it has a huge amount of wit and wisdom, some very repeatable anecdotes – along with a few political blind spots.
Things Can Only Get Worse?, by John O’Farrell, was first published in 2017 by Doubleday and is also available in paperback by Black Swan.
For more reviews visit www.harrymottram.co.uk
Follow Harry on twitter as @harrythespiv also on FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, Blogger and on Instagram and God knows what else
Crimes on the Nile. Tacchi Morris, Taunton
New Old Friends have created a new comedy genre of a hyper fast moving send up of the period whodunit with their improvised style and joke laced script.
The movement and choreography by Gary Sefton is excellent and the quartet of actors’ performances are brilliant in the way they slip seamlessly between a Nile tourist boat full of Agatha Christi type characters. In this spoof we head to Egypt where the detective Artemis Arinae (Kirsty Cox) has a murder to solve on a river boat full of suspects.
To follow the plot of Crimes on the Nile can be all but impossible such is the speed of the narrative but also the amount of explanations given by the protagonist Artemis. Too many words in an accent that’s difficult to catch at times means the main enjoyment of the show is the enjoyable comic acting of Heather Westwell, Feargus Woods Dunlop and Fergus Leathem along with energetic set scenes of choreographed chaos.
Some of the best parts of the drama directed by James Farrell are the set pieces such as Westwell’s three door female shouting match sequence, Woods Dunlop’s song and the opening ‘there’s been a murder’ in the dark scene. If some of Artemis’ explanations and thought processes could be slowed to very fast instead of extremely fast along with the denouement, then the story could be conveyed with more clarity.
Witty, creative and with endless comic props and in-jokes the play fits well with the series of five comedies the theatre company has so far produced. With a small cast and lots of fine details in the props, characterisations and swift changes of direction the style works better in more confined and intimate spaces. On the larger stage of the Tacchi Morris part of the attraction of the drama – its very frenetic and creative nature – is diluted.
Crimes on the Nile is on tour to May 20, 2019. Dates: http://www.newoldfriends.co.uk/crimes-on-the-nile/
Follow Harry Mottram on twitter as @harrythespiv also on FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube and on Instagram and www.harrymottram.co.uk
Harry Mottram reports for Print Monthly
Despite the claims by some in the media the Royal Wedding on Saturday may not be the economic boost that is claimed.
Many editors have fallen for Brand Finance’s prediction that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s nuptials would boost the UK economy by £1bn. Headlined by such diverse publications as Print Week and The Daily Mail the reality of the cash injection seems somewhat less sensational. Initially Brand Finance gave a figure half of that but they have doubled the number to the sensationally round figure of a billion – and why not? It is after all a guessing game. However with fine weather this weekend people will be out spending for a change anyway and this time there is no public holiday which immediately stalls the economy for 24 hours plus there’s the small matter of an advantageous exchange rate making it much cheaper for people visiting the UK from abroad.
If this all sounds a bit like Eeyore in The House at Pooh Corner then you are right. Nobody actually knows the real cost but research used by the Financial Times suggests there has in the past been little evidence to suggest there is a Royal wedding bounce to the economy. They FT reports the wedding is “unlikely to do much to boost Britain’s sluggish economy. Past royal weddings have had little impact on the economy, or even held back growth, as was the case with Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding in April 2011.”
They point out that the Government’s own Office for National Statistics reported that Prince William’s nuptials saw a fall of around one and a half percent in output in the economy. Undoubtedly there is a lot of business associated with the wedding from printing invitations to tourists booking hotels and street parties organised and fuelled on cakes and tea. Advertising rates for network TV channels on the day have shot up in response to demand while Market Watch in their defence say their £1bn figure breaks down as tourism £300m; £300m in public-relations and advertising; £250m retail/restaurants; £150m fashion industry; and here’s the important one: a £50 million boost to merchandise which includes the printing industry.
A billion pound boost sounds good but it is guess work and history suggests if there wasn’t a Royal Wedding then the public would be spending their cash on other distractions. There is the FA Cup on the same day which annually generates more than £25m on its own according to Deloite while around the country there are a vast number of events and promotions that have nothing to do with the wedding suggesting life goes on as normal for most people – as does the economy.
Back to that £50m figure. Certainly it is a welcome boost for the print industry and nobody will begrudge entrepreneurs and printers making the most of the event. Whether it is London print firm Barnard & Westwood who printed the invites or the rather less stylish Harry and Meghan swimsuits printed by Bags of Love in London – we wish them well – and of course the happy couple as well.
For more stories from Harry visit www.harrymottram.co.uk
For Harry on Twitter @harrythespiv and on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pintrest, Blogger and Instagram as Harry Mottram
For more on the printing industry visit http://www.printmonthly.co.uk/
Harry Mottram reports for Print Monthly
It is a curious story of how business partnerships in the printing industry can go horribly wrong. One particular bust up between business partners was brought back to life by the typographer and designer Robert Green, who discovered the evidence of a bitter dispute a century ago at the bottom of the River Thames.
He says the dispute was between Thomas Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker at the Doves Press in London at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Cobden Sanderson was a designer while Emery Walker was a printer. Both were dedicated to their crafts and as a combination created not only beautiful books, but also a unique typeface, the Doves font, designed largely by Cobden-Sanderson. The font was only available in 16pt and was seen as classic, elegant and sophisticated.
The partnership began in 1900 after Cobden-Sanderson had in effect coined the phrase ‘arts and crafts’ to describe a revival of tradition craft skills used in a range of disciplines, in a generation of designers and artists in reaction to the mass production of the Industrial revolution. The partnership with Walker would continue to produce and celebrate this movement and some of the great works of literature including Paradise Lost. However, like so many partnerships, things began to go wrong. Walker had other business and social interests that kept him away from the publishing house which Thomas Cobden-Sanderson resented. By 1906 the partnership was under strain and Cobden-Sanderson suggested it should end. There was only one issue and that was who owned the font Dove. Cobden-Sanderson had been its chief designer but Walker had also had an input into the beautifully crafted typeface.
“I first saw the Doves Press font when I was at art school, and I thought it was incredibly elegant. It has real authority, and it also very idiosyncratic”
I first saw the Doves Press font when I was at art school, and I thought it was incredibly elegant. It has real authority, and it also very idiosyncratic”
Robert Green says: “I first saw the Doves Press font when I was at art school, and I thought it was incredibly elegant. It has real authority, and it also very idiosyncratic. The type is all and that is a very modern approach. For some reason I began to get obsessed with the type but I didn’t know the story.”
Green began to recreate the font digitally by scanning each character to create a digital version of Dove. As he looked into the background of the two men behind the font he discovered the extraordinary outcome of their bust up. When the partnership folded in 1906 they appeared to have resolved the ownership of the typeface. Walker would have the right to continue using it and the metal characters so beautifully crafted for use in his letterpress, while the elderly Cobden-Sanderson would be the owner of the font until his death when the ownership would pass to Walker.
The deal seemed to work until Cobden-Sanderson began to ponder on the agreement and found himself unhappy with it. So in an act of revenge he decided to destroy the typeface. Two years after the partnership ended, he returned to the print room and picked up the heavy metal typeface and put them into a bag and walked the few yards to Hammersmith Bridge where he threw them into the River Thames. Not just once, but perhaps it took him more than 150 journeys on foot to empty the characters and everything associated with the typeface into the dark depths of the river.
The Dove typeface used in a printing of the Bible
A century later, Green had by now not only researched the dispute but was on the track of the lost font. He worked out where the lead had fallen and how the tides would have moved the small pieces on metal in the mud.
Green says: “There was a ton of type, which was a lot of weight for an elderly man to shift. It must have taken him about 170 trips on foot. I studied where the traffic is and where he might have thrown the type in and began to look. The first letter I found was the letter V which had spent 98 years under water being thrashed about by the tides.”
He comments: “Cobden-Sanderson was a socialist and man of ideals, but the most beautiful thing he created he destroyed instead of sharing it with the world.”
Cobden-Sanderson admitted to disposing of the font in a letter to Walker’s solicitor. And it can be assumed the two men never spoke to each other again. Cobden-Sanderson died in 1922, while Walker continued to work as a printer and was knighted in 1930. He died three years later. His house is open to the public once a year during London Open Buildings Day.
For more stories from Harry visit www.harrymottram.co.uk
For Harry on Twitter @harrythespiv and on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram as Harry Mottram
More stories on the print industry at www.printmonthly.co.uk
A drowned child, the ever turning world and not a cherry tree in sight. Michael Boyd’s production of Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard at the Bristol Old Vic is set on a minimalist turning circular stage but with a surprising mirror of the auditorium that features a full scale recreation of the seating and dress circle positioned on the stage turning the Bristol Old Vic into a theatre in the round.
First staged in 1904 the drama looks back to the past and forward to the unfolding events of the 20th century with an uncanny ability to suggest the themes of change taking place in Russia as it emerged from a semi feudal past. The universal themes of change and the brevity with which Chekov conveys so much has made this play part of the 20th century canon. It is a play that is frequently included on the curriculum for students at school and college to study as part of their English and drama courses because of those themes, the well-defined characters who represent strands in society and its language. All schools and colleges in the region should take their students to see this production due to its adherence to Chekov’s original script and the clarity with which it is presented.
Mrs Lyuba Renevsky was brought to life with a reflective subtlety by Kirsty Bushell who balanced her continuing grief over her drowned son with her insufferable inability to accept change. Chekov’s dialogue is in tune as to how we listen and answer. Any difficult question posed to one of the characters is ignored and deflected and Renevsky is the prime example as she changes the subject if she detects where the conversation is going. Who wants to admit they are a fool? Renevsky is the mistress of denial.
The other protagonist is the upwardly mobile Yermolay Lopakhin the business man from humble stock who is enterprising and has none of the baggage of Renevsky and her like. Jude Owusu was a believable and exasperated Lopakhin who desperately tried to convince Renevsky to sell the orchard for profit as holiday lets. Listening to conversations in the interval as to the merits of casting black actors in a turn of the century Russian drama (Owusu is black) I couldn’t help but thinking how theatre had changed for the better and how this was a production for our time. Why is there even a discussion about colour or race when nobody as far as I know in the cast is Russian or attends the Orthodox Church services in Bristol? The idea is nonsense as the discussion should be about the acting and in Lopakhin we have perhaps one of Putin’s 21st century cronies in the making as he boasts of being rich. And although Owusu cuts it as a competitive and ruthless business man, when he describes the auction there’s no hint he may use nerve gas to bump off rival bidders.
There was a surprise before the play began with the sudden appearance on stage of the theatre’s artistic director Tom Morris who explained that due to illness the eccentric character of Charlotta (Anya’s governess) would not be played by Eva Magyar but instead the bearded assistant director Evan Lordan would step in. Initially Morris said Boyd was not sure if Lordan could pull it off since he had a beard and was a man, but after thinking about it agreed. Lordan played it straight despite his beard and (what must have been an inner urge to panto dame it) Lordan got away with it – and since Charlotta was from a circus background – it was just about believable. Charlotta is one of Chekov’s characters who you know will survive the 1905 and 1917 Revolutions as she is pragmatic – a 20th century person who will adapt – unlike poor old Firs.
The old retainer Firs dressed immaculately and played with an elegant frailness by Togo Igawa fusses with a maternal affection for his master over Gayev’s dress sense ringing humour from his sparse lines. Pompous Gayev (Simon Coates) was perfect as he railed against change praising the book case for its long service but failing to do the same for the put upon staff. Another bit part character who was spot on was Jack Monaghan as the clumsy Yepikhodov knocking over a side table and entering with unfeasibly squeaky boots – every inch the idiot – while Yasha (Hayden McLean) was excellent as the good time toy boy leaching off the fading aristo’s money. Verity Blyth as Anya gave a pitch perfect performance balancing naivety with entitlement, empathy with selfishness. And with her sunray pleated skirt and assorted fin de circle outfits (and it must be added Yasha and Lopakhin’s sexy tight fitting tailored suits) it is full marks to the costume department.
Harry Mumblestone as the threatening vagrant represented the just-under-the-radar-underclass that haunted Russia then and now as well as Britain today – as society pretends homelessness doesn’t exist – while at the other extreme flick through the pages of the Financial Times you will find the equivalent of Boris Simeyonov-Pischik (an on form Julius d’Silva) who despite his stupidity survives and prospers in part because of his inherited wealth, luck and connections. Rosy McEwen’s stoic interpretation of Varya was strangely agonising as she is ignored in love by Lopkhin.
Emma Naomi (Dunyasha) had a sensual stage presence but was also an essential support to Anya’s pampered lifestyle and was fittingly brushed off as below the salt by the young aristocrat but somehow conveyed that hurt that could manifest its revenge in the 1917 Revolution a decade later. Enyi Okoronkwo as the eternal student Trofimov was fittingly angry, confused, articulate and a sociably inept visionary who at times appeared to predict the future. Characters like Trofimov can be hard to portray but Enyi pulled it off with his quivering voice and ability to sound genuine. And the inclusion of a child by Boyd in the cast to play the lost seven-year-old son of Ranevsky was in turns enchanting and also haunting in this brilliant co-production by Bristol Old Vic and the Royal Exchange Theatre.
The play continues to April 7, 2018.
- The Cherry Orchard is at The Royal Exchange Theatre from April 19 to May 19, 2018.
For more details visit https://bristololdvic.org.uk
For more about the stage design by Tom Piper of the show visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwKw5H6kQLQ
For more theatre reviews from Harry visit www.harrymottram.co.uk
Towards the end of 2014, Flossie Waite and her colleagues put together a list of children’s theatre-related Twitter accounts to follow on her website https://childrenstheatrereviews.com/
Last year they updated the list as the numbers have grown. The list includes individuals, venues, companies, festivals and organisations that are creating, supporting, presenting or writing about theatre for young audiences. And it keeps on getting longer as more people take an interest in the creative and long neglected genre. Here is part one of that ever increasing list – fully updated since last year by Harry Mottram:
@A1000Cranes A Thousand Cranes was co-founded by artistic directors Kumiko Mendl & Vicky Ireland. The company aim to bring the ‘stories, traditions, art forms and artists of Japan’ to children’s theatre in the UK.
@floodsofink When we first encountered Floods of Ink in 2014, it was hard to believe they were an emerging company, as their work was already so accomplished and polished. A few years later, and Floods of Ink are continuing to create high-quality work for young people, whether their audience are under six or teenagers.
@CWheelsTheatre Award-winning company Catherine Wheels have toured across the world, including to New York, where Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker described show White as ‘the best 40 minutes of my life’.
@feveredsleep Fevered Sleep’s artistic, surreal tweets are always a joy. The company make brave, experimental, challenging new work in performance, installation, film, publication and digital art.
@tuttifruttiprod tutti frutti work with acclaimed playwrights like Mike Kenny and Emma Reeves to create new shows with original scripts that are both entertaining and relevant to their young audience.
@theatriolo Theatr Iolo want to welcome babies to the theatre at 6 months old, and continue to create work that will engage and excite them for the rest of their life.
@oilycart Oily Cart create multi-sensory, immersive and highly interactive productions for very young children (aged 6 months – 6 years), and for young people (aged 3 – 19) with profound and multiple learning disabilities, who have an autism spectrum condition, or who are deafblind.
@hullabalootweet Theatre Hullabaloo, based in the North East, make, tour and promote high quality theatre for young people, who they consider the most important audience of all. They also produce the annual TakeOff Festival.
@TCLive Theatre Centre have been touring new writing to venues and schools around the country for over 60 years. The company aim to encourage youth activism and empower young leadership through the arts.
@20StoriesHigh Our first experience of 20 Stories High was their 2016 co-production with Theatre-Rites, The Broke ‘N’ Beat Collective; even now, we can’t stop thinking about it. The Liverpool-based company make theatre with and for young people, producing work that is honest, political and challenging.
Facebook: hetfiliaaltheatermakers The multi-layered, entertaining work of Het Filiaal, who are based in the Dutch city of Utrecht.
@KOPERGIETERY Kopergietery is actually a children’s arts centre in Gent, though they tour their unpredictable, zany, beautiful work outside of Belgium. We came into contact with them at the 2016 Edinburgh International Children’s Festival.
@ZooNationUK Watch a ZooNation production and your face will hurt from smiling. Responsible for the first ever hip hop dance production on the West End, the company often adapt fairytales and children’s books using their own high-energy, humorous, imaginative style.
@PetitsTheatre Les Petits Theatre Company is the children’s arm of the acclaimed Les Enfants Terribles. Les Petits adapt children’s books, both new (David Walliams’ The First Hippo on the Moon) and old (Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland).
@Freckle_Prods Jennifer Sutherland, co-founder of the multi-award winning Scamp Theatre, recently launched Freckle Productions. The new company will continue to focus on productions for children, young people and families, but with a broader output of work: as well as stage adaptations, there will be original and emerging tales, ancient stories, and explorations of science and the environment.
@tl_theatre Bristol-based Travelling Light Theatre Company have been making highly visual, story-led theatre for young audiences for over 30 years.
@birminghamstage Since 1992, the Birmingham Stage Company have produced over 80 productions for adults and children. Most recently, these have included popular adaptations of the Horrible Histories series, of Roald Dahl’s books, and David Walliams’s recent releases.
@2_ndhanddance Second Hand Dance keep children central to their creative process, working with young people to develop and play with ideas for their shows.
@TurnedOnItsHead Turned On Its Head create interactive theatrical experiences for the very young, with their productions encouraging and offering opportunities for children and adults to engage and play together.
@wrongsemble Wrongsemble pride themselves on creating shows accessible to everyone, ‘from the young of passport to the young of heart’.
@Papertaleshows Papertale is the spoken word theatre company led by Rosemary Harris. Papertale’s lyrical productions confront important topics, from gender identity to asylum-seeking.
@reallybptheatre Really Big Pants Theatre Company pull each performance (and pair of big pants) out of their huge travelling trunk. Often tied to educational themes, their productions aim to complement the primary school curriculum.
@_oldsaw Old Saw create productions from their base in Northwest Iceland. Recent shows have been for very young children, like Meadow aimed at ages 3-6, and Duvet Day, for babies and toddlers aged 0-18 months.
@frozentheatre Frozen Light Theatre Company was created by two friends who met at university and went on to develop their own form of multi-sensory theatre for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities.
@bigwintheatre Key to Big Window Theatre’s ethos is creating work that is accessible to all, culturally, financially and geographically. They also collaborate with local practitioners, venues and companies in order to promote and develop theatre within the East Midlands.
@PiedPiperLive Another long-standing company is Pied Piper Theatre, who have been producing plays for young audiences since 1984. While originally much of Pied Piper’s work was new writing by Artistic Director Tina Williams, the company also tour new adaptations, like the Janet and Allan Ahlberg classic Burglar Bill.
@TravelledC Travelled Companions create original shows for young audiences; they perfectly pitch their engaging productions to meet children at their level.
@filskittheatre Filskit, a trio of theatremakers, have been using multimedia technology (in particular, projectors) to create high-quality children’s theatre since 2009.
@TheatreLovett Irish company Theatre Lovett create imaginative, fun, surprising and daring productions for young audiences.
@thewidders Widdershins Theatre tell fairytales, folk tales and myths from around the world using puppetry and quirky props.
@TheatreAlibi Theatre Alibi draw on a variety of art forms to tell their stories, with recent productions including puppetry, animation, film, photography and music.
@GomitoTheatre Gomito Theatre is a collaboration between an ever-changing collection of artists. With each performance, the company aim to bring an all-age audience of story-lovers together.
@pinsandneedles0 Pins and Needles Productions have gained praise for their stellar adaptations of Raymond Briggs’ work – in their review of The Bear, The Guardian said ‘move over War Horse, this polar puppet is magic’.
@Bamboozlenews Bamboozle Theatre create multi-sensory theatrical experiences for young people with moderate to profound learning difficulties, and young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties.
@HorseandBamboo Horse + Bamboo is a puppet and mask company that have been creating theatre for almost 40 years. As well as touring their work, the company host a programme of productions, workshops, an annual puppet festival and more at The Boo, their venue in Lancashire.
@ATTtweet Action Transport Theatre put children at the heart of their creative process; each of their productions is a result of this collaboration.
@wriggledance Wriggle Dance Theatre create interactive dance performances for young children and their families. Community outreach and engagement accompanies every production, to reach and introduce new audiences to.
@StarcatchersUK Starcatchers is Scotland’s National Arts and Early Years organization, specializing in theatre and creative experiences and activity for children aged 0-5.
@hellolittleblue Little Blue Monster have taken over from Blunderbus. East Midlands company that create shows based on popular children’s books, like Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found, and their own original stories
@LongNosePuppets In just over a decade, Long Nose Puppets have created four puppet shows for children that have been performed in all sorts of places, from the National Gallery to Downing Street.
@ReplayTheatreCo Based in Northern Ireland but touring internationally, Replay Theatre Company create theatre for young people under the age of 19. In 2015 they created the world’s first ever BabyDay, offering over 80 events across venues in Belfast
@scamptheatre Scamp Theatre produce adaptations of hugely successful children’s literature; most recently, a collaboration with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler has seen Scamp bring The Scarecrows’ Wedding and Stick Man to the stage.
@KazzumArts Kazzum create ‘playful theatre in unusual places’, whether that’s a festival, a shopping centre or a car park.
@TheatreRites Theatre-Rites have been creating experimental theatre for children since 1995. With their ‘object-led’ theatre, Theatre-Rites have produced site responsive pieces as well as toured shows nationally and internationally.
@garlic_theatre Garlic Theatre create imaginative, sometimes surreal, highly visual puppet theatre for young audiences and their families.
@ripstoptheatre Created by theatremaker Zannie Fraser, Ripstop Theatre initially produced shadow theatre for young audiences, though their work has since developed to include other forms of puppetry and storytelling, always expertly designed.
@WizardPresents Wizard Presents’s hugely successful adaptations of Michael Morpurgo’s books Why The Whales Came and I Believe In Unicorns have been seen by tens of thousands of children all over the country.
@fishngame Fish And Game, the Glasgow-based performance company, create shows ‘straddling theatre, live art and visual art’. Over the past few years, their polar bear-inspired shows have toured both nationally and internationally.
@TellTaleHeart Tell Tale Hearts devises and tours accessible participatory theatre for children that combines installation, puppetry, performance, music and projection.
For more theatre companies and children’s theatre visit
Please note these were Twitter accounts were correct on 31 Dec 17
You can’t beat live theatre when studying a text for school says Harry Mottram. And he offers some productions of interest to schools this spring
Students studying drama as part of English Literature GCSE and A Level courses have a number of shows to see at the theatre this year.
Yes there’s been a row about whether students even need to visit a theatre to see a live play or whether they can make do with a live screening instead, but unless the school is on an island in the middle of the Atlantic it should be possible for the teachers to organise a trip to see at least one of the plays being studied.
The AQA board list the Shakespeare plays of Othello, The Taming of the Shrew, Measure for Measure and The Winter’s Tale as part of the Love Through The Ages theme, while OCR include in their section on pre 1900 drama the plays of Coriolanus, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Richard III, The Tempest and Twelfth Night. And Macbeth is on the reading list for the IGCSE this year.
The National Theatre in London is staging Macbeth this spring (and it will also be screened live in May) at the Olivier Theatre running from February 28. While they will also have a production aimed at younger children of A Winter’s Tale at the Dorfman Theatre from February 14-28. Macbeth is also being staged from February 22 to April 7 at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol and there’s also a production of the Scottish play at the Royal Shakespeare company in Stratford-upon-Avon from March 13 to September 18 with a live broadcast on April 11.
The Unicorn Theatre in London has a production of Othello on from February 3 – March 3, especially created for children. The theatre said: “Inspired by William Shakespeare’s great tragedy, this is a modern, funny and inspired play by Belgian playwright Ignace Cornelissen (Henry the Fifth, The Hunting Lodge) that brings the story of Othello to life for younger audiences and reflects on the nature of relationships, friendships and how our flaws and feelings can blind us to the truth.”
Hamlet will tread the boards this spring with a production by the Royal Shakespeare company that will be taking a tour of the play to Salford, Plymouth, Hull, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Northampton between January and March 2018, before transferring to London’s Hackney Empire between 6 and 31 March 2018. In contrast to the blood and near madness of Hamlet the RSC’s production of the comedy Twelth Night continues in Stratford-upon-Avon until February 28th, with a live screening on St Valentine’s at cinemas across the country.
Some of the texts listed by the examination board are novels and these are often staged – albeit in adapted or abridged versions although they can help a student with the interpretation and themes of the book. George Elliot’s The Mill on the Floss is being staged by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School this summer with a tour of venues across the South West including the Tivoli in Wimborne on July 5th. Meanwhile in Guildford there’s an adaptation for the stage of Jane Austen’s Persuasion by theatre6 at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre And Mill Studio. By their nature adaptions condense a novel, especially the lengthy 19th century novels listed as core texts but nevertheless they are perfect for discussion and analysis afterwards.
Meanwhile in East Kilbride in Scotland Studion 32 are putting on Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls from March 14-17 at the arts centre in the town while at the other end of the British Isles Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire is playing at Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre from March 23-31 and June 5-16. This revival of the classic play on the list of texts for study this year is co-production with Theatr Clwyd and English Touring Theatre, it will be directed by the winner of this year’s Sir Peter Hall Director Award, Chelsea Walker. Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House gets a make-over with an updated version on Thurs 17th May at the Arts Centre in Bromsgrove with an adaption by Theatrical Niche. It may not be the exact text of the play but again with the main theme and driven protagonist the play is ripe for discussion and helps to bring to life the drama for students in the 21st century.
London’s National Theatre has a production of Translations by Brian Friel from May as Ian Rickson directs a cast which includes Colin Morgan in the powerful account of language and nationhood. And another modern text taking a look back at this country’s colonial past that is on the list of texts to study is Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker. A production of the drama set in Australia will be on tour at the Nottingham Playhouse, New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Sheffield Crucible and Birmingham Rep from March 9, 2018 – June 2, 2018 with the Ramps on the Moon company who integrate disabled actors into their cast. The play is a hardy perennial so you’ll find more than one production including those by amdram and student groups on stage this year – so worth doing a Google search for the play along with the others listed by the examination boards.
This is by no means a complete list of the plays that are available to view this year for students but it shows how many are already being promoted as early as last autumn. Local theatre groups often leave promoting their shows until a few weeks before curtain up so it is worth doing a search even quite late in the term. Some of the best productions are those found locally or performed by colleges where youthful exuberance can inject added energy into a production – and of course the tickets are cheaper.
Studying a play in a classroom can seem dry but seeing it performed live will bring it to life so it is vital to organise a trip to see a show even if it means a long journey and a late night. Writing in October 2013 for the Guardian Lyn Gardner said: “Last week I sat in the Unicorn theatrewatching Ellen McDougall’s superb production of Henry the Fifth, a play which responds to Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Like Shakespeare’s play in which the chorus asks the audience to ‘piece out our imperfections with your thought’ so Ignace Cornelissen’s play is a call to arms for the imagination, getting a young audience to imagine a different world, a different story for themselves, an alternative narrative and to empathise with another point of view.”
And there are other benefits of a visit to a theatre. From experiencing the arts first hand, to visiting a world they may not have entered previously to giving ideas for future projects and even opening up career choices seeing live theatre is impossible to match. YouTube, the cinema and live screenings have their place but exposing children who are studying a text to live theatre can have a transforming affect.
For more children’s theatre visit http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/?page_id=884