As Nottingham enters 2016 with UNESCO City of Literature status, the city's based touring theatre company New Perspectives is to mark the occasion with a new tour featuring three rarely staged plays for children, by one of the giants of 20thcentury poetry. Ted Hughes is perhaps best known for children's stories including The Iron Man and How The Whale Became, but it is his Collected Plays for Children that New Perspectives has drawn from to create a new family production aimed at children aged 7yrs+ opening at Lakeside Arts Centre on 20 February.
The stories were originally conceived as BBC Schools radio plays broadcast live into classrooms, as an educational resource for teachers in the 1960's. Now for the first time The Tiger's Bonesand Other Stories combines three short plays for children, and in each Hughes explores weighty themes characterised in rich language and terrific humour. InThe Coming of the Kings a greedy innkeeper is central in an original take on the nativity; Sean, the Fool, the Devil and the Cats is the former Poet Laureate's allegory to fair working and the treatment of workers, whilst The Tiger's Bones hints of the dangers of technological advancement. Director, Jack McNamara was drawn to the stories saying,
'Stumbling across these rarely performed children's plays by Ted Hughes was like metal detecting treasure on a beach. They were everything I wanted children's theatre to be; beautiful, mysterious, funny and quite mad. They also have a deeply moral centre, exploring everything from worker's rights to the dangers of trying to know too much! Ted Hughes understands the intelligence of young audiences and offers them sophisticated themes usually reserved for adults, but with real lightness and invention.'
This is Jack McNamara's 8thproduction as New Perspectives' Artistic Director, previous productions including world premieres The Boss of It All (Lars von Trier), The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock (David Rudkin) and the regional premiere of Playland (Athol Fugard). He has assembled a creative team to bring the evocative texts to life in a production designed to excite the eyes, ears and minds of young audiences. Composer and sound designer James Atherton's continuous sound/musical score is being integrated using a combination of instruments, found objects and percussive set pieces from the show's designer Amelia Jane Hankin; Lighting designer Azusa Ono completes the creative team, her previous designs for New Perspectives include Playland and The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock.
The ensemble cast includes Ed Thorpe, who recently performed in Hood, a New Perspectives co-production with Nottingham Theatre Royal to celebrate the theatre's 150thanniversary. He is joined by New Perspectives newcomers Heather Dutton whose most recent credits performed in Bryony Lavery's adaptation of Treasure Island at the National Theatre and Primetime at the Royal Court; George Eggay, who has an extensive stage, film and television career both in regional theatre and in London and Harry Egan, fresh from Trevor Nunn's season at the Rose Theatre.
The production follows in the footsteps of previous New Perspectives tours of children's classics Farm Boy and The Butterfly Lion (Michael Morpurgo) and The Iron Man (Ted Hughes). The Tiger's Bones and Other Stories is being performed in a combination of theatre venues and schools, where it is being supported with workshops lead by Associate Director Theresa Keogh.