Guest Blog: Metta Theatre's Poppy Burton-Morgan on bringing theatre to the playground
Metta Theatre's Monkey & Crocodile tours playgrounds across the UK from tomorrow (22 June 2013). Here writer and director Poppy Burton-Morgan talks about bringing the idea to fruition
Monkey & Crocodile is a joyous romp through playgrounds featuring skateboarding, music and acrobatics, which we started developing back in January 2012.
We wanted to create something in a playground environment; partly for the exciting circus possibilities, partly as it's already a place where young people engage in imaginative play, and most of all to reach audiences that might not venture into a traditional theatre.And so several Research & Development periods later here we are with 45 minutes of circus, skateboarding and even the odd moment of opera, telling the unlikely tale of a love story between a monkey and a crocodile.
It's been a delight making a show in a playground - rediscovering our inner child and working out the best (and safest) way to slide down slides head first. We're taking the show all over London and the South West (Greenwich, Exeter, Redruth, Kingston, Wimbledon and finally Bath) where we re-make the show entirely to respond to the peculiarities of each site.
Hard work but fun too – converting choreographies from swing set to slide and in the case of Bath working out how to navigate a moat full of water! Just as well it's our last venue as I bet they'll end up in the pond at some point...
Last week we rehearsed in our Wimbledon Playground (Marsh Court Play Area on Pincott road, right next to South Wimbledon station). Day by day the local children began joining us in rehearsals until by the end of the week they felt like they owned the production and were very happy to offer their opinions on the show. They were quite put out when they arrived after school on the Thursday to find that we'd let 'Monkey' go home early for the day! She's always a favourite.
This week we've been translating the show for our Greenwich site, where we open on June 22nd for the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival. It's totally different to Wimbledon and has been staged in traverse around a giant pirate ship! We can't rig our normal aerial hoop which we use for the regular show so instead we have a tiny tiny hoop – just 30cm diameter - through which 'Monkey' and her tiny tiny hips can pass. It has to be seen to be believed.
Today we had some impromptu character research for our two Crocodiles (Mother and Son) when a passerby brought his pet bearded dragon lizard for a visit. Somewhat surreal, but good to know that Crocodile's scuttling on the floor is an accurate reptilian walk.
We're raring to get it in front of an audience now – though we've had the great luxury of roadtesting most of it to the transient audiences of children, parents and random office workers who often wander past and get caught up in the action.
With a poignant coming of age love story between Monkey and Croc, an embittered, arthritic and occasionally operatic Croc's mum, and all the circus antics there's genuinely something for everyone in this show. Not to mention the free apples!
Monkey & Crocodile tours playgrounds around the UK from 22 June-21 July including: Greenwich (22+23 June), Exeter (26-28 June) Redruth, Cornwall (29-30 June), Wimbledon (6-7 July), Kingston-Upon-Thames (13 July), Bath (18-19 July). All performances except Bath are free and unticketed. Circus workshops also accompany the tour.