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Little Feet, A Festival of Children’s Theatre, York Theatre Royal, June 19 to 23
2:55pm Friday 15th June 2012 in Theatre
YORK Theatre Royal and Leeds company Tutti Frutti have joined together again for the Little Feet festival of theatre, storytelling, music, playing with clay and baking.
The first festival of children’s theatre at the Theatre Royal was held two years ago, and the event now returns in a bigger format, with the De Grey Rooms being added to the main house, Studio and foyer as locations for the June 19 to 23 programme for children aged four months to 12 years old.
As before, the festival is being co-ordinated by the Theatre Royal’s education department associate director, Juliet Forster, in her birthday week, and Tutti Frutti artistic director Wendy Harris, in the year of the children’s theatre specialists’ 21st anniversary.
“After the first one in 2010, we thought we should do it every two years,” says Juliet. “What we learnt is that there’s an appetite and an audience for this kind of work, and there’s also something very special about converting the foyer, which is normally very grey with its columns.”
Designer Catherine Chapman transformed the foyer and terracing two years ago and will do so again, this time using a nautical theme inspired by Scamp Theatre’s new stage adaptation of Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson’s Tiddler And Other Terrific Tales, the festival’s big production in the main house.
“Catherine will be putting up fishing nets and swathes of material in sea colours around the columns and will hang crafts that children make during the festival,” says Julia.
The foyer will play host to Mud Pie Arts’ Storymakers sessions at 10.15am on Tuesday and 10.15am and 11am on Wednesday, as an addition to the Storymakers that already take place each Wednesday.
In the company of Jenna Drury and Nicolette Hobson, pre-school children aged three to five will have the chance to explore a story book through craft and creative play.
Bake And Do sessions for all ages (well, up to age 12) will involve making, baking and decorating biscuits in fun shapes in the foyer on Thursday and Friday at 10am. Places for these one-hour activities are limited to ten children per day.
“One of the things we learnt last time was that lots of mothers passing the theatre came into the foyer because they noted it was child friendly and said there was nowhere else like it in the city,” says Juliet.
“In 2010, Catherine had big strands of ribbon coming down the columns; this time there’ll be wigwams and a water table and outside, on the terrace, there’ll be a sandpit and toys.
“We’ll also have a ‘rolling storyteller’, our very own Shona Cowie, so that when children and parents come in, Shona will invite them to contribute to the stories, and there’ll be an illustrator too, John Chamberlain, from the One&Other website, who, as the children come up with ideas, will illustrate them.”
The Billiards Room in the neighbouring De Grey Rooms will be used for Leeds company Mimika’s show, Landscapes, which takes children aged four to ten on a journey to four lovingly realised landscapes, from desert to rainforest, from beneath the sea to Antarctica in a show with puppets, an original musical score and no words. “The room is a big size but more contained than the ballroom, and we’ll be erecting a pod that you will go inside to experience the show,” says Juliet.
Back in the Theatre Royal, education and young actors associate Julian Ollive is designing a treasure hunt around the theatre that will culminate in finding audio stories recorded by narrator Michael Lambourne.
The main stage has not only performances of Tiddler at 1.30pm next Friday and 2pm and 5pm next Saturday, but also the return of last year’s big interactive hit, Claytime, Indefinite Articles’ “play with clay”, where each audience aged three to six creates its own world, characters and stories, on Tuesday at 11am and 1.45pm.
Reeling And Writhing make their Little Feet debut with The Presents, a musical performance with minimal speech for four to 18-month-old babies and their adult company in an in-the-round space on the main-house stage, designed for everyone to have a front-row seat. Mats and seats will be in place, and a maximum of 25 babies can attend each of Wednesday’s performances at 10am, noon and 2pm.
The Studio will be the busiest of all the spaces, beginning with Teasel Theatre Company’s Grisly Tales From Tumblewater. “It’s a show that does what it says on the tin: rather more gruesome stories for the older age group, eight and upwards,” says Juliet.
In these Grisly Tales, a determined orphan, a satchel of spine-chilling stories and rain, rain and more rain come in to play in Tumblewater, a not very welcoming place, unless you are an undertaker or umbrella salesman.
Sarah Brigham and composer Ivan Stott, two names with an illustrious past at the Theatre Royal, present Eastleigh company Hiccup Theatre’s The Owl And The Pussycat for three to eight years old on Wednesday at 11am and 1.30pm; Tutti Frutti and York Theatre Royal revive their co-production of Brendan Murray’s adaptation of Aesop’s Hare And Tortoise, for two to six year olds, with a new cast on Thursday at 11am and 1.30pm.
Newcastle’s Bare Toed Dance Company serenades children aged 18 months to five year old with sounds from a musical bed as dancers run with the moon, snooze in the air and fly to the top of the stairs in Fly By Night. “In between the 11am and 2pm shows next Friday, there’ll be a workshop where children can play with the equipment from this very physical show,” says Juliet.
Ben Haggerty embarks on a tale of outwitting trickery in the Russian fairytale for eight year olds and upwards, The Devil, The Tsar & The Three Dry Biscuits: the Crick Crack Club’s storytelling show at 7pm next Friday.
The Studio programme concludes with Family Stage Fight Workshops, led by fight director Liam Evans-Ford, next Saturday in 90-minute sessions at 11am and 2.30pm. Twenty places are available for each combative session. “Basically you can bring your dad in to beat him up,” jokes Juliet.
Casting her eye over the festival, she concludes: “There’s a really broad range of music, theatre, dance, puppetry, interactive shows, workshops and baking.
“I think we’ve done even better with the programming in terms of a good balance of shows for different age groups and family audiences.”
Little Feet, A Festival of Children’s Theatre, York Theatre Royal, June 19 to 23. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
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