Tag Archive | "Fairytales"

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Spotlight On: Kipper Tie Theatre

Posted on 15 August 2012 by Veronica Aloess

This year Kipper Tie Theatre is performing Our Island – a collaboration with Singapore company, I Theatre – and The Ugly Duckling at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Ugly Duckling is a children’s story we all know and love and similarly it hasn’t taken Kipper Tie Theatre long to become a cherished company for children’s theatre, especially following a series of great reviews at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe with The Mole Who Knew It Was None Of His Business. Artistic Director and founder of Kipper Tie, Bernie Byrnes, sheds light on the company’s fringe programme and on why children’s theatre best communicates ideas effectively when the storytelling itself is engaging.

What do you aim to achieve with your productions?

We aim to make people’s visit to the theatre, whatever their age, an enjoyable and memorable one.

What are the key ingredients for a successful children’s show?

Don’t patronise (I can’t stress that enough). Strong storytelling is key: make the action clear, relevant and interesting. Don’t shy away from surprising yourself and your audience and keep on your toes. Also, remember you can’t please everyone so you have to be proud of your work. If you don’t love what you are making you shouldn’t be making it.

You’ve used popular children’s stories like the Three Billy Goats Gruff and Hansel and Gretel for past shows. How did you go about adapting these for a theatre audience?

First we tend to strip the story right down to find its core and work out how that can best serve the story that we want to be telling. We think hard about what we want the audience to go away thinking: are we focusing on sharing, or bullying etc. The message/moral doesn’t have to be the traditional one – but that doesn’t mean you need to change the original beyond all recognition.

Both Our Island and The Ugly Duckling teach children about important issues: xenophobia and social inclusion/exclusion. How do you go about making theatre educational in a child friendly way?

We don’t preach. We champion kids by being on their side and “getting” their point of view. The story needs to serve the message without carrying it – hopefully the audience will go away saying “I liked it when character A was nice to character B” rather than “I think the message of the show was about the importance of tolerance and sharing”.

The Ugly Duckling incorporates Sign Supported English into the performance. What made you decide to integrate this?

We wanted children to be familiar with the idea of signing. The way it’s used in Ugly Duckling isn’t forced or tacked on. It occurs as part of a repeated section of gestures and dialogue that become familiar to the audience without ever saying “this is the sign for friends, let’s all sign together”. Our hope is that by deciding to copy rather than being told to, children become more open to the idea of different ways of communicating. We wanted to encourage a dialogue about exclusion through the simple start point of “What are they doing?” but actually we found that thanks to CBeebies and Sesame Street the kids are better at signing than we are! We are lucky enough to have a sign language consultant on the team (Gemma Scott) though, so we’re working hard to stay ahead of the game.

How did the collaboration with Singapore’s I Theatre come about?

I Theatre and Kipper Tie Theatre have been based at C Venues for a few years. We admired their work and they admired ours. I got talking to Brian Seward, artistic director of I Theatre, about collaborating and then we spent a couple of years thrashing out how to make that happen. We have previously collaborated with other theatre companies and we enjoy the fresh way of working that collaboration brings. We’re delighted with the results.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own theatre company?

Think about what kind of company you want to be – what are you setting out to achieve. It’s much easier to plan, to promote yourself and to track your progress if you have an idea of what your goals are. They can be as simple as “we will be strong traditional story tellers” through to “we are going to redefine theatre as a vegetable puppet based, anarchistic and freestyle living art form, where the audience’s disgust is an integral and sought after part of our essential happenings.” I would also advise would-be artistic directors to get out there and talk to the people who are already making the kind of work you like.

Is it important for children to experience theatre?

If children’s first experiences of theatre are fun – if from an early age going to the theatre isn’t a staid and boring thing where they have to sit still and be good – as they get older they won’t be afraid to come back and see other work. They won’t worry that they don’t know the rules of behaviour. Children are, after all, an essential part of audience creation and they’re also the practitioners of tomorrow.

Our Island and The Ugly Duckling are both playing at C venues  C until 27th August. For more information or to book tickets, visit, or for more about the company,

Image credit: Kipper Tie Theatre

Veronica Aloess

Veronica Aloess

Veronica Aloess is an aspiring arts journalist and playwright, who trained at Arts Educational School London and is currently studying towards a BA in English with Creative Writing at Brunel University. She is co-founder of Don't Make Me Angry Productions which is dedicated to original writing and innovative performance.

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Filskit Blog: Fairytale fashion

Posted on 26 June 2012 by Filskit Theatre

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most topical of them all?

The recent release of Snow White and The Huntsman has got us thinking… if you haven’t yet realised how on trend fairytales are right now, then you must have either had your head buried deep into the sand or been stranded on a desert island for the past six months. So far this year Hollywood has been going fairytale mad – there have already been two versions of Snow White, with many more re-tellings of classic tales lined up for release next year. And it’s not just Hollywood – TV have been at it too, with series such as Grimm successfully drawing in audiences.

It’s easy to see why artists, producers, directors, film makers etc. choose to work with fairytales. On a creative level they are stories full of emotion and morals with rich characters and settings, and if you research even further back than the Brothers Grimm you can find a whole wealth of different versions to choose from. On a business level, with a fairytale comes a name and a brand. In theory audiences will deem fairytales as a safe bet – everyone knows the narratives and how different can they really be from the Disney version? Our answr is: a lot!

Take, for example, the latest Hollywood offering Snow White and The Huntsman. There is not a doe-eyed Princess in sight, as this fairest-of-them-all trains to become battle-ready and even saves her Prince Charming, played by moody actress of the moment Kristen Stewart. Now, we at Filskit Theatre are real advocates of challenging the fairytale Princess stereotype. We do it ourselves in our own version of Snow White where our Princess picks her nose and snogs a hand puppet. Whilst we personally feel that Hollywood is treading ever-so-slightly on our toes by churning out two versions of Snow White in one year (we like to kid ourselves that we came up with the idea first), it does have its up sides.

Many times during a performance we have scanned the audience and spotted a little girl eagerly dressed in her Disney shop Snow White costume, and whilst this is very cute it does hammer home just how different our version of this tale really is. Though we absolutely love Disney (have to say that Finding Nemo, Aladdin and Robin Hood are our firm favourites) it was never our intention to regurgitate it for the stage – quite the opposite in fact.

There seems to be a common belief that Disney is the bearer of some sort of gospel truth when it comes to fairytales – what they say goes, when actually the stories go much deeper and darker than a sweet girl singing to a poor unsuspecting bird.

This is where we believe the Hollywood blockbusters are actually doing us small scale theatre companies a favour. By presenting a new twist on a classic they’re saying that it’s OK to mess with the original, to make it modern and fresh. Of course we all know that already, but it does provide some affirmation for those less keen on the modern re-telling. They’re also building the hype, which is a band wagon just waiting to be jumped on. Don’t get us wrong, we are not saying “go and adapt a fairy tale, you’ll be rolling in it in no time” – there still has to be some artistic integrity. We’re just saying that if you are already working within the realms of fairytale, why not use the ‘Hollywood hype’ to your advantage?

Of course as in any good fairy tale, there is a nasty foreboding force waiting in the wings for its chance to pounce – one journalist has called the trend “fairytale fatigue”. It could be argued that the fairytale mayhem which currently grips us will begin to wear thin and leave audiences pleading for some new writing.

However, given the world’s continuous obsession with these dark tales, we’re not too worried. As artists we’ll just have to keep thinking of even more innovative and exciting ways to bring these brilliant stories to a new generation of fairytale lovers. It’ll keep us on our toes! And with Angelina Jolie taking the lead as Sleeping Beauty’s evil enemy in Maleficent next year, it looks like the fairytale gift is going to keep on giving for some time yet.

Filskit Theatre

Filskit Theatre

Filskit Theatre are an all-female ensemble with a passion for micro-projection. The company, Sarah Gee, Katy Costigan and Victoria Dyson, have been making work together since 2008. As graduates of the European Theatre Arts course at Rose Bruford they were brought together by their shared love of projection and cake.

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