Monthly Archives: February 2018

CW Blog Reimagining Classics: The Wind in the Willows

Box Tale Soup is a dynamic theatre company creating spirited shows with puppets, music and physical theatre. They have thrilled audiences all around the UK and abroad with their award winning productions. This February the company is touring the classic tale of The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. In preparation for the show we had a Q&A with the artistic director and also founder of the company, Noel Byrne.

  • This play is showing at Canada Water Theatre February 13-14, 1 and 3pm.
  • Suitable for children 4+
  • £7 / £24 family ticket  BOOK NOW

“..incredible chemistry.. a beautiful tale..”
Creative Reviews UK

Badger Home Large

1. How did you strike a balance between creative freedom and invention, and honouring the classical storyline?

We’ve created numerous adaptations now, and in each case we try to remain as true as possible to the source material, and to the authorial voice. However, when we start work on a show, we begin by creating a list of ideas, no matter how wild and ridiculous, without worrying about any of the restrictions that the final piece will face. Somewhere between the two, we end up with what we hope is the perfect balance!

2. What do you believe captivates readers and audiences most about this story?

Obviously there’s a lot of fun with Mr. Toad, and we’re carried along on all his crazy adventures, but there’s also some beautiful writing and a lot of charming, heart-warming moments. We’ve tried to keep parts of the novel which often get cut in favour of focusing on Toad, so there’s the magic of ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’, and ‘Wayfarers All’. Kenneth Grahame achieves that unusual quality in The Wind in the Willows, where there is truly something to be recognised and enjoyed by all ages, from the very young to the very old.

3. For someone who has never read the novel how would you describe the story of the show?

It’s a tale about four friends who also happen to be animals, a Water Rat, a Mole, a Badger and a Toad. The story follows their various adventures through the seasons, from Ratty and Mole’s first meeting, Toad’s escape from prison, to their final confrontation with the creatures of the Wild Wood.

“Puppets allow you to do things onstage that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, and in this show we use them to play with scale, and present a very expressive 5 foot Mr. Toad!”

4. Besides the talking animals, in the piece what contributes to the magic on stage?

Box Tale Soup has worked with puppetry from the company’s very beginning, and it’s something that we still find gives a magical quality to a performance. Puppets allow you to do things onstage that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, and in this show we use them to play with scale, and present a very expressive 5 foot Mr. Toad! We also work very hard on the adaptation, making sure we keep as much of Grahame’s beautiful language as we can, and that in itself provides a certain magic.

5. What challenges and advantages accompany reimagining a story?

You never want to do it a disservice. Before we take on an adaptation we ask ourselves whether we think we can truly tell the story in an effective and entertaining way with the resources available to us, and there are projects that we have turned down for the time being for that reason. If you’re asking someone to come and watch a production based on a piece that is well-known and well loved, then you have to be sure both to treat the material with respect and to provide something special in the way the story is told. Of course, the advantage to working with this kind of story is that it is already well-known and well loved, which can help to provide an audience, and if they feel you have treated the source material well, the audiences can be very enthusiastic and supportive.

6. Did you feel any pressing responsibilities to your viewers who are fans of the novel?

Whatever we’re adapting, we’re always concerned that the resulting show should be enjoyable for fans of the original work. That’s why we feel it’s important not just to consider the story, but also the voice of the author, the way in which the story is told. We choose the pieces to adapt because we have enjoyed them and are fans ourselves, but it’s always nerve-wracking to find out what people think of our version of the story. So far though, we’ve had fantastic reactions, and it’s still incredibly rewarding to have someone approach us after a show and say, “This is my favourite book… and I absolutely loved your performance!”.

Come experience this entertaining show for yourself, and your family!

Canada Water Theatre  February  13-14 at 1 and 3pm. 

Suitable for ages 4+

Tickets: £7 or  £24 family ticket  Book Now

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bright Sparks- the science behind the show

By Dr Mark Dallas, a brain scientist at the University of Reading.

Filskit Theatre’s Bright Sparks is coming to the Albany this half-term 11 Feb, 1pm & 3pm, ages 3+.

 Inspired by research of the left and right hemispheres of the brain and their different attributes, this physical theatre show lights up the stage in a playful and engrossing story of teamwork.  This production won the University of Reading INSPIRE award for its skill in making the science of the human brain accessible to a younger audience. We’ve been talking to the neuroscientist who was consulted for the project, here’s what he had to say about the left and right side of the brain…

Check out the trailer here.

To book now, click here. 


10% of us are left-handed, with 90% being right-handed. But do our brains have a dominant side?

Sometimes people who feel more creative or curious say they are ‘right-brained’, and people who are more practical and logical say they are ‘left-brained’. It’s true that your brain has two halves – a left side and a right side, linked with a special junction of nerve fibres called the corpus callosum. This special junction has 200 million fibres running through it.

In the 1960s and 1970s scientists examined people with brain conditions that meant this connection was broken. They learnt that the two sides of your brain could still work if they weren’t connected to each other, but that these people tended to respond differently to sights and sounds. At the time, this was a revelation. It led some people to think that for most people, the right side of the brain controlled the wild, emotional, imaginative parts of our personalities, and that the left side was in charge of the calm, reasoned, logical side.

Some people still think this today. But it’s not true. It’s a myth.

We know this because some very creative people, such as musicians, can still be musical even if the right side of their brains are damaged. We can also use modern technology, like magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI scans, to find out how our brains work. By using very powerful magnets and special cameras, we can see what’s going on inside someone’s brain and see which parts are working when they do certain things. This has shown us that most people use different parts of both the left side AND the right side of their brains for most tasks.

So while you do use different parts of your brain in different ways, most things you do require lots of different parts, on both sides of your brain, working in perfect harmony. For example, to do something really creative, like paint a picture, your brain will need to do lots of things to do the job properly. It will have to recall memories. It gathers information from your eyes. It directs your muscles. It may even use deep emotions.

Your brain is the most complex computer ever built. It has 100 billion nerve cells, that’s 200 times more nerve cells than an octopus. These cells are hungry and use 20% of our total body’s energy. Why do they need all this energy? They use this energy to communicate with each other, this communication allows you to walk and talk.

We’re only just beginning to uncover the secrets of our brains. It’s much more complicated than just a left side and a right side.

Want to know more?


Filskit Theatre’s Bright Sparks is coming to the Albany this half-term 11 Feb, 1pm & 3pm, ages 3+.

 To book now, click here. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

CW Blog: Conversation with Up ‘n’ Under’s Director Jeni Draper

Up ‘n’ Under Director Jeni Draper talks to us about how she discovered the work of John Godber and how she went about adapting this classic…

When I left drama school I was drawn to physical theatre shows. I remember seeing Steven Berkoff and Linda Marlowe in Decadence, and loved their performances.

Then I watched John Godber’s wonderful play Bouncers. I left acknowledging these actors were supremely talented, playing multiple characters, whole heartedly embodying each one. Visual storytelling, pictures created, minimum set and props – it took my imagination somewhere else – the words and performers.

Fast forward over the years, still with my passion for physical theatre, I knew I wanted to direct a Godber show for fingersmiths, staying true to his style but adding our own too.

We’re a touring theatre company working with Deaf actors using British Sign Language and hearing actors with great voices. Put the two together with Godber’s writing – we’re in sensory heaven! Up ’n’ Under is next in our series of re-imagining popular plays known to the hearing world but lesser known in the Deaf community. With our fingersmiths’ twist, the play becomes relevant to them whilst enabling those familiar with the story, to see it in a new light.

So what is our twist on this one? Our Wheatsheaf team, bottom of the amateur rugby league, are all Deaf sign language users. Arthur, the coach, is hearing and doesn’t sign. How will they communicate, let alone win the bet that’s on the table? In the original story, Arthur works hard to persuade the team to take him on as coach. In ours, he has to work doubly hard, but in another language.

Can Arthur’s team beat Reg’s mighty Cobbler’s team? Godber says his play is an attempt to stage Rocky in Yorkshire. Rocky Balboa the iconic underdog – who doesn’t like an underdog story?!

It’s ripe for some extra visual humour – allowing us to show the everyday communication between Deaf and hearing people – from complete incomprehension, to smoothest interactions and all the juicy options in between. We want our audiences to experience this, as the play’s characters do.


We’re partnering with England Deaf Rugby Union, who will be putting us through our paces during rehearsals. They recently played the New Zealand Deaf team – and magnificently won the test series.

Our work engages with all audiences, so we’ll be having lots of fun with the access elements in our production ensuring everyone can enjoy the great storytelling of Godber’s award winning comedy.

Visually impaired audiences can come to any show. They will experience every element of the play with on stage audio description in every performance. We’re lucky, Willie Elliott is with us – experienced audio describer and accomplished actor. He plays Reg (Arthur’s nemesis), and will audio describe each performance from the stage. You’ll have to come and watch the show to see how he manages the 2 roles!

I’ve got some fun ideas for projecting text – not giving too much away, I’m anticipating some interactions between cast and technology to be on the naughty side….

Our performance style has been described as “HD theatre”. The pictures you’ll see are brighter and clearer, enhancing the story telling. Nowhere demonstrates this clearer than in a Godber play. He’s given us a gift of different ways to tell the story.

We have narrative prose – a dream to present physically; everyday dialogue – a more relaxed informal natural style, contrasting beautifully with the monologues – spoken and signed, talking directly to our audiences. These are my favourites. A chance to show pure bi-lingual storytelling.

For me, the opening speech, has echoes of Henry V St Crispin’s Day speech, rallying his troops before battle. In Up ’n’ Under we are rallying you, the audience, to join us on our battleground of amateur rugby league! Neatly introducing our hero, Arthur, the underdog

We are really looking forward to presenting our version of this well known classic comedy with our fingersmiths’ twist. Do let us know what you think too.

Up ‘n’ Under with be coming to the Canada Water Theatre from Thursday 15 to Saturday 17 February at 7.30pm (and a 3pm Saturday matinee). To book click here. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized