(c) Mihaela Bodlovic

(c) Mihaela Bodlovic

Superhero Snail Boy, written by Elizabeth Muncey, will be featured in A Younger Theatre’s very own Incoming Festival in May. I had a chat with Steph Connell and Ross Stanley, Co-Directors of Scribbled Thought Theatre, the brand new company that has produced and developed the show along with Vertical Line Theatre. “We originally discovered the play with Vertical Line Theatre at a new writing night called LineUp; a 10 minute extract of the play was produced the play as part of that night. We fell in love with it and, as it was so well received, we decided to produce it in Edinburgh last summer.”

The show premiered at last year’s Barclaycard British Summer Time Festival, “to about 1,500 children at Hyde Park”. It then transferred to Bedlam Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe where it was shown to a much wider audience and garnered the interest of other venues. The Incoming Festival kicks off a summer tour that proves the show is going from strength to strength: “Since everyone loved it so much, we thought that we should show the progression with it. There have been a lot of rewrites so the structure has changed quite a bit; we have helped Lizzie, the writer, to develop the play and give it more structure.”

Aimed at those aged nine upwards, Superhero Snail Boy is about two 11-year olds who have both suffered the loss of a family member: kept up by their worries at night, they both have trouble sleeping. In comes a giant snail whose job is to carry the weight of the night-time when children cannot sleep: the snail teaches them how to express their emotions and not to fear them. On reading the script, Connell immediately saw that there was more to the piece: “We read it and thought people need to see this play –children, adults, teachers, young people, everyone. People should learn that children have problems too which need to be talked about just as much as adults.”

Stanley points out that those looking for substance need not be deterred by the family format: “Expect to be surprised, it is more than a children’s show; any preconceptions you have about it are probably wrong. The play has been cleverly written and directed: there are so many different layers with varying relationships and dynamics explored in the play. At the end of the play, we have had children come out in hysterics and adults in tears: there is something for everyone. ”

Both previously part of Vertical Line Theatre, Stanley and Connell decided to start their own company after realising that, “what we cared about the most and our visions for the future were very much intertwined. We want to do projects that are issue-based and highlight problems in our community: our aim is not only to entertain but also to educate and inspire.”

Both Stanley and Connell seem to have a strong mission, made clear in their passion and approach regarding the development of new work: “We do not really have set criteria for what excites us: we are looking for that energy and that initial spark that enables us to form a relationship which guides our work. At the minute we are working with very specific artists that we target rather than them coming to us, helping specific individuals rather than trying to assist everyone and not being able to spread our resources as far. We are focusing on giving them tailor-made support, providing them with the structure and production values in a safe environment, and allowing them room to play.”

In line with their own vision to be a hub for new writing, Connell and Stanley feel honoured to be part of the Incoming Festival: “It is important to celebrate young companies and show other people that we do make professional productions of a high quality, which are just as good as those of people ten years older. The calibre of the companies involved is incredible and the festival is a good way of showcasing them with the credibility of a central London venue. It is a great opportunity for our companies to find each other, build relationships, and see how we can advise and support one another.”

On asking for their advice to other young people looking to start their own companies, Stanley’s response was, “Jump in feet first. Fundamentally, if you care enough about what you’re doing, then that will shine through and will be your driving force.” Connell rightly pointed out young people should not let their age discourage them: “Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If you work hard and have the skills to do it, then people will take you seriously.”

Their recommendation to seek guidance from those higher up in the industry was especially valuable: “If you do not ask, you do not get: we have had coffees with people we never thought we would get in the same room with, simply just by asking. They may seem like they are divine, but never forget that where you are now is where they were ten years ago. A lot of them feel like it is their duty as professionals to pass on some help.”

Superhero Snail Boy will be part of the Incoming Festival at New Diorama, playing on 24 May at 4.30pm. For more information and to book tickets, visit the New Diorama Theatre’s website.