Tag Archive | "Polka Theatre"

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Review: Momo, Polka Theatre

Posted on 16 March 2014 by Jemma Anderson

MomoMomo is an adaptation of Michael Ende’s book of the same name. Presented by Filament Theatre and the Greenwich Theatre, it is currently residing at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon aimed at audiences 7+.

We follow the story of young Momo, an abandoned child, illiterate and not knowing her age. She is welcomed to the ruins of an amphitheatre by the villagers, who embrace her for her incredible ability to listen to any problems they have. Things take a turn for the worse when the Men in Grey appear, a race that promotes the ideas of ‘time-saving’, urging the residents to bank their time wisely without wasting it. Social activities are considered wasteful, and what transpires is that the cigarettes the Men smoke are made of hour-lilies, which represent time. Since her friends are now overpowered by their time-restricted lives, it is down to Momo to extinguish the cigarettes and save the day.

Director Sabina Netherclift’s vision for the nonsensical story is a strong one, and lovingly played out on stage. It has been crafted with an original score by Osnat Schmool, which is bravely sung a cappella all the way through the two-hour play. It features much tribal influence, minimal instruments and the odd use of Ladino, a language not widely heard today. The use of local school choirs is also a prominent feature, as they help the cast sing songs with the use of sign language.

Annie Siddon’s adaptation for the stage produces a story that does feel slightly laboured in the first act, slow for the ‘action’ to begin – but the second act quickens the pace much better and leads the young audience to the show’s climax effectively.

Netherclift’s programme notes mention that the fantasy world of Momo, in which the characters share so much time with each other, is of utmost importance to today’s young society: time is to be shared with each other physically, and not virtually. I whole-heartedly agree with her values, and it seems to be prominent in the piece. It also suggests to the children the importance of friendship, listening and compassion.

Luisa Guerreiro’s Momo is a loveable character, full of heart and empathy for her fellow characters. Adebayo Bolaji leads the cast with his incredible musical talents, incorporated in the character of songwriter Guido. The rest of the ensemble provide a solid base of characters as well as portraying the Men in Grey, all displaying beautiful harmonies.

If the large groups of school children’s reactions were anything to go by, Momo is a strong adaptation full of true moral and heart, designed to keep children in a fantasy world for an afternoon.

Momo is playing The Polka Theatre, Wimbledon until 22 March. For more information and tickets see the Polka Theatre website.

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Guest blog: Theatre Centre’s Natalie Wilson and playwright Rob Evans on Write Lines, a conference on new writing for young audiences

Posted on 07 May 2013 by Natalie Wilson and Rob Evans

Theatre centre conference

Natalie Wilson, Theatre Centre’s Artistic Director, gives AYT an idea of what to expect from its forthcoming conference…

On 20 June, Theatre Centre will host Write Lines, a conference on new writing for young audiences for writers and industry professionals. Guest speakers include playwrights Amanda Dalton, Rob Evans, Bryony Lavery, Philip Osment and Evan Placey, and industry representatives Anthony Banks (NT), Jonathan Lloyd (Polka Theatre) and Purni Morell (Unicorn Theatre).

Theatre Centre is celebrating 60 years of working with writers to produce outstanding theatre for young people, and Write Lines is inspired by my experience of running our Skylines writers programme. Over the past 12 months, Skylines has encouraged 47 emerging writers to develop work for audiences aged four to 18.

I noticed how much energy was generated when writers came together, exchanged ideas, listened, questioned and debated. These moments of reflection and learning seemed to be cherished by the writers, and I want to present this opportunity again but on a bigger scale. New writing for young audiences is a niche area but the beauty is that it is open to all: experienced, emerging, young or old.

The Write Lines conference is designed to bring together writers, artists, commissioners and producers, and to harness a sense of shared purpose and best practice to produce quality new plays. The contributors offer an extraordinary and diverse wealth of experience and perspective which I hope writers will find immensely valuable.

Our contributors will galvanise debate on collaborative working with young people, cross-artform inspirations and making extant stories fresh for a contemporary stage.

Writers will be able to meet like-minded artists and hear from the commissioners about what they want from the plays they stage. TYA-England’s series of debates, Whose Title Is it Anyway?, will take a new turn with Evan Placey (winner of the Brian Way Award 2012) presenting a provocation to four leading new writing commissioners on what writers can offer the programmes of our theatres and companies. Write Lines aims to bring writers and producers together, and perhaps a few new collaborations will be seeded by the end of day. Each delegate will arrive at Write Lines with questions and curiosity. I hope each will leave with some answers, a new question, fresh vigour and a strong line to pursue in their individual practice.

With this in mind, acclaimed playwright Rob Evans whets our appetite by telling us why he writes for young audiences…

Children have not yet had the link between their imagination and their physicality broken. They move and fidget and squirm, and if you get it right they lock on tight to your play with eyes as wide as saucers and they really, really watch. This is so satisfying to me as a writer because it’s how I feel when I’m writing.

Writing is a visceral thing; it can make me cry or explode with laughter. I think this very strong physical reaction is why I work a lot on plays that get performed to young people and their parents and teachers.

The reaction of young audiences in turn affects adults who watch the shows. Adults often think of plays for young people as a kind of babysitting service, then find they get sucked into the story. Theatre that engages both adults and young people equally is something to strive for. When you see young people and adults (their parents or teachers) enjoying the same story, the boundaries we might perceive between young and old seem made of the flimsiest stuff.

Visit the Theatre Centre website for details of the event.

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Review: The Wind in the Willows

Posted on 31 December 2012 by Rebecca Hussein

Wind in the Willows - Polka Theatre

Pah pah! Polka Theatre’s production of The Wind in the Willows roars along at the pace of Mr. Toad’s motor car, sweeping up its audience of under-11s, and many of the adults too, into a giggling frenzy. Kenneth Grahame’s timeless story of the friendship between a group of woodland animals is beautifully retold by Toby Hulse, who manages to combine the charm of the original with a real sense of playfulness and energy.

This playfulness is best conveyed in moments such as the interplay between the animal and human worlds. The gang make use of two gigantic spoons as the oars of Ratty’s boat, a Colman’s Mustard box becomes a caravan and the gigantic Toad Hall is a red letter box. The sheer inventiveness of it is a delight and draws some lovely parallels between the worlds of children and adults. It also works as a nice little nod to the darker side of human nature, in which Mr. Toad’s famous spell in prison becomes entrapment in a glass jar, his prison warden a cruel boy.

The cast all put in strong performances and yet the real star of the show is Mr. Toad himself, played by an exuberant Robert Saunders. His energy does mean his absence at the start of the second half results in a slight dip in pace that is rescued by a touching song, sung by the lovely Ailsa Joy as Mole about the delights of home, a particularly important theme in the book.

Another of the book’s themes that is utilised well is that of class differences. Mr. Toad is the perfect example of an eccentric upper class fool and this is nicely realised in moments such as his disregard for his ferret servant, for only select animals have voices and know how to use them. Spying the mistreated ferret amongst the animals that take over Toad Hall in the climax of the play, I couldn’t help but feel slightly on the side of the squatters as the gang attempt a daring rescue.

A well choreographed fight later results in victory for the woodland friends and yet the real triumph lies in Mr. Toad’s journey from pomposity to his acceptance of himself as just the same as his new-found friends. With a fairytale set and enchanting costumes, The Wind in the Willows is a fantastic alternative to the glitz of celebrity filled pantomimes and is a real Christmas gem.

The Wind in the Willows is playing at the Polka Theatre until 16 February 2013. For more information and tickets, please visit

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Filskit Blog: Theatre Olympics

Posted on 13 September 2012 by Filskit Theatre

It’s hard to believe that the Olympic and Paralympic games have come to an end. I am the first to admit that I was sceptical about the whole event, and living in southeast London, spent a lot of my time on the run up convinced that I would not be able to leave my flat for the crowds of tourists. But even I miss the air of buzz and excitement that has surrounded us this summer.

One thing that has struck me about London 2012 is how it has succeeded in inspiring people to take up sport. Working in primary schools, I have definitely seen the effect – the children are sport mad and some of them have abandoned drama club in favour of taking up netball or hockey. The BBC news were even asking for people to get in touch with their stories of oversubscribed sports clubs and waiting lists. The big job now, I guess, is sustainability – keeping these clubs going now that the main event is over.

Here at Filskit, our minds have been whirring since our R and D project, and we can’t help but wonder how those of us in the performing arts industry can create a similar effect (on a much smaller scale of course). Over the summer we’ve been lucky enough to visit and work in different venues and catch up with some of our friends and mentors in the industry. On more than one occasion the topic of engaging with a local community or new audiences has been raised.

Of course the job of bringing in the local community or engaging with new audiences is bound to sit mainly with arts venues. They are solid buildings, present at all times, a constant factor within a certain area, whereas touring companies come and go, sometimes only the once. What we’re interested in is how visiting companies can inspire people to get through the theatre door and put their bum on that seat.

We don’t currently have an answer for this. But going back to the Olympics, what was it that inspired people to take up sport? I believe it’s seeing something spectacular, watching people who are at the top of their game achieve something amazing and thinking that you can try it yourself and you might be amazing too. That would work for us anyway.

With our new show for children, The Feather Catcher, we are hoping to create not just one show that can hop in and out of venues, but a whole network of events. As the performance is for ages 3+, we have planned an interactive story time that can go to nurseries or preschools, and we also have plans for a family friendly post- or pre- show workshop. We are also thinking carefully about branching out into a new area for us: Autism Friendly performances. This is by no means new territory in the theatre world, with venues such as Polka Theatre offering Autism Friendly versions of their in house productions. For us, as with the idea of creating work for children, this is an area that we have always felt strongly about but never considered we would be able to do, until we were approached at a sharing of our work.

By expanding the theatrical experience for children we want them to see theatre and the arts as something more than passive entertainment – something they participate and invest in, just as they do in sport. True, it will be difficult to replicate the superstar status of Chris Hoy and Ellie Simmonds, but contact with the performers and those who create the arts could still ignite an passion that could last a lifetime.

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