Disclaimer – this we received press tickets to review this play at the Polka Theatre – many thanks
As this play is for a slightly younger audience, this is a guest post review!
As you may have noticed – it’s Christmas! And the good people at the Polka Children’s Theatre understand that there’s nothing more evocative of the atmosphere of the season than sitting snuggled up in a ‘magical Scandinavian wood’ listening to a master storyteller weave her tales.
Jan Blake, who has more than twenty-five years of storytelling experience under her belt, meets us in the foyer before this afternoon’s performance of In the Winter Wood and beckons the audience of children aged 3-6 and their assorted adults into the Adventure Theatre for an hour of interactive tale telling.
Inside the space has been transformed with wood, bark, hessian and logs into the winter wood. Blankets are offered so that children can cuddle up with their grown-ups and each other. The scent of pines fills the air. At the end of the show it snows. It’s the kind of simple but effective staging the Polka excels at.
The story itself is a simple one. Pig and Goat escape their intended destiny as the centre piece of the farmer’s feast and build a new home for themselves in the forest. As the animals – and Jan – build their new house they entertain one another with stories. Jan is a thoroughly engaging performer – confident in her tales and her performance skills – she incorporates call and response songs, rhythmic chanting, percussion and lots of audience participation into this production. She’s not afraid to interact with the audience in the moment and we all warm to her, the children and adults alike shouting out answers and reacting visibly to the stories. The narrative gets more interesting as it progresses through the allotted hour of the performance. The very young audience are somewhat restless during the tale of Little Possum but they warm up during the much more interactive African Lion and the Baobab and by the end they chant along at the tops of their voices with the hilariously gory Caribbean story of the Fat Cat.
It always is lovely to see storytelling outside the usual moralising sanitised versions of the Grimms and Disney and fantastic for kids to hear tales from a variety of cultures. A great afternoon’s entertainment!
Many thanks to the Polka Theatre for the press tickets and another magial play. Find more information on In the Winter Woods here!