Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Little Dramaturg: Teresa Burns @ Edfringe 2016

How It Ended in association with Scamp Theatre

The Little Gardener 

Based on the book by Emily Hughes
UK Tour: June-July 2016

This heart-warming adaptation of Emily Hughes’ popular children’s book The Little Gardener is an outdoor, interactive adventure for all little gardeners.

Performed inside a large glass box, containing a real-life garden, How It Ended, a visually inventive theatre company, tell the story of a little gardener and the garden that meant everything to him. 

He worked hard, very hard, but he was just too little to make a difference (or at least he felt he was). Will you help the little gardener bring his garden to life? This spellbinding show will melt your heart and get your hands dirty too!

How It Ended is a visually inventive theatre

company based in the South East, jointly run by co- artistic directors Eva Sampson and Teresa Burns. 

How It Ended make ambitious pieces of theatre that are youthful, contemporary and full of heart. Through original music and visual storytelling they work to excite young audiences and inspire the next generation of theatre makers.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
We loved the book – immediately upon first read. We’re big fans of Emily Hughes’ work and loved her debut book Wild so we were very excited by the release of The Little Gardener.  It’s a simple story, beautifully told, about a gardener who works very hard but feels too little to make a difference.  The idea to adapt the book into a piece of interactive, outdoor theatre came together quite quickly and it felt us though it shouldn’t be done any other way. 

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
The idea was conceived with Eva Sampson (director and co-artistic director of How It Ended) and her clear-sighted vision for the production has really fuelled how the project has been managed.  We had worked with James Lewis (designer) before and we knew he was the man for the project. 

James not only designs but also builds his sets and we knew he would not only produce something beautiful but also create a set that had the durability to withstand lots of touring. We had also worked with Darren Clark (composer and lyricist) before and we knew he’d be the perfect fit for this. Darren is a brilliant lyricist as well as a composer and his pieces really serve the narrative.

How did you become interested in making performance?
My oldest brother is an actor (Michael Begley). There’s quite a big age gap between us so I grew up watching him in plays and he’s undoubtedly a bit of an inspiration. 

At a young age I was exposed to performances that I otherwise would have been very unlikely to experience.  Growing up in an a very working class family in Luton, my peers didn’t experience much in the way of theatre but my family and I travelled the country to see him perform in theatres such as the Royal Exchange Manchester, Nottingham Playhouse, Birmingham REP and The Royal Court. I think somewhere along the way I thought: “I want in”.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Our process has been very much the same as our previous productions. Before entering into rehearsals we spent a lot of time working on the design concept and the dramaturgy for the production. We hold the belief that if we have done the ‘homework’ beforehand, then we can enter the rehearsal room with a freedom to play.  

It’s really important to us that the book's images are re-imagined so that our audiences do not see a literal representation of the book played out in front of them. We believe in creating non-patronising, playfully inventive pieces, which encourage children to use their imaginations.

The only real significant difference with this rehearsal process was our focus on our audience and how we would manage the interactive section of the play. In fact, in the latter stages of rehearsals we invited a group of young children and parents into our rehearsal room to troubleshoot our ideas. Their feedback was invaluable to the development of the show.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
We’re really keen to encourage children and families to embrace the outdoors and get into gardening. We’d also love our audiences to take away a sense of community and that by working together you can create something wonderful.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The nature of interactive theatre is that it is always somewhat unpredictable.  However, we have tried our best to prepare for every perceivable outcome. We’re aware that some children will feel comfortable interacting with us, with handling plants and getting their hands dirty, whilst other will be more hesitant, so it’s about making those children feel at ease. 

For each performance we have a lovely team of Production Assistants/Gardeners who are on hand to ensure that the show runs smoothly and that our audience feel comfortable and happy.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
We have always described our work as visually inventive and have often adopted the theatrical language of clowning and ensemble led work.  We’re now really excited to join a new wave of artists who are producing outdoor theatre. Moving forward, we’re really keen to engage with children and young people whom may be experiencing theatre for the first time and thereby challenge any preconceptions of what theatre can be.

Director Eva Sampson comments, We’re so delighted to have been awarded the prestigious Outdoor Performance Commission 2016, giving us the opportunity to adapt this remarkable children’s book. We believe Emily’s story should be experienced by as many people as possible, a story about hope, persistence and community. We’re really passionate about inspiring communities to embrace the outdoors and believe in the active goodwill of others.'

The audience will be invited to tend to the garden while the little gardener is sleeping and, through their work (basic tasks such as planting and watering), the garden will come alive. When the gardener wakes up at the close of the show, he will find his garden in full bloom. The performance is as playful as it is inventive, featuring puppetry (in the form of the little gardener and his pet worm), and an original soundtrack composed by Darren Clark.

Commissioned by Lyric Hammersmith, GDIF, Watford Palace Theatre and Latitude.

Running time 30 minutes

Box Office All performances are free to attend and are non-ticketed.

Director Eva Sampson Dramaturg Teresa Burns Designer/ Set Builder James Lewis Puppet Maker/ Prop Artist Andy Lawrence Composer Darren Clark Actor/ Puppeteer Peter Hobday Author/ Illustrator Emily Hughes

Notes Ages 3+

Performance Dates

7th – 8th June Lyric Hammersmith

King Street, Lyric Square, London, W6 0QL

25th – 27th June Greenwich and Docklands International Festival

2nd – 3rd July Watford Palace Theatre

20 Clarendon Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD17 1JZ

17th July Latitude Festival

Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk

29th – 30th July Stockwood Discovery Centre

Stockwood Park, London Road, Luton, LU1 4LX

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