Thursday, 4 June 2009

Strawberry Ham.

It's been a really positive day of meetings and the plans for next year are beginning to take shape. First up this morning Jorge and Gary came over from Ham House to talk about how we might work together next year.

The proposal is for our third year Drama in the Community students to become an associate company attached to the house in the build up to their 400 anniversary celebrations in 2010.

We'd work closely, get ourselves immersed in the house, its history and collections initially by training up as tour guides, run Christmas and Summer entertainments and develop a range of public events and experiences. It would mean a genuine partnership with the National Trust and offer our finalists a real opportunity to develop the skills, training and stamina needed for the workplace, as well as see the way the house operates on a yearly cycle. As with all the best work at HE level, there won't be anywhere to hide or excuses to make - our ideas will be tested on the road - but the work might just throw up some new possibilities for how performance and heritage can meet. So a huge commitment, but we were all very excited by the potential of the plans. Gary is keen on a legacy and so if this year is successful as a pilot it's clear that the room is there for an ongoing liaison.

This afternoon Tina and I met with the Strawberry Hill Trust, who are gearing up to re-open the Walpole House later in the year. We're keen to help celebrate the event and find ways to work with them on two projects - a Winter show of Gothic splendour mixing his letters with a magic shadow puppet show capturing the atmospheric nature of The Castle of Otranto and then another quest production for children imagined in and around the renovated eighteenth century gardens - although this won't be until spring 2011.

This evening I went to see the results of a twelve week project we're been hosting for Richmond Theatre's creative learning department, working with families for whom English is a second language. Orode's been heading up the work and it was wonderful to watch fairy stories being told by the participants firstly in their own mother tongue before being repeated in an English translation.

The stories came from Columbia, Eritrea, Poland, Finland, Turkey, Nepal, China and Brazil and featured a huge range of characters, creatures and magical happenings, with the group borrowing from each others traditions to create new international myths. In one we had South American frogs guarding the sleeping Eastern European Princess from an African Hyena, who could only become human through the magical forces of a Scandinavian wizard. The most wonderful aspect is to see the children, who pick up language very quickly through school and especially play, helping to teach and explain to their parents the directions for each scene or the rules for a game. All done with much laughter, wonder and a terrific sense of fun.

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