Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Muse of Fire at the Globe

LAST year the Globe theatre's education department put on a promenade production especially for children.
Muse Of Fire was part of the very first nationwide Family Arts Festival and was devised by the Globe and creatives from theatre company, Punchdrunk, performer and sound artist Melanie Wilson, and Little Angel puppet theatre.
It was so successful that not only did the show achieve a 10-day sell out run but it won three out of five categories in the Festival awards - Best Family Welcome, Best Family Venue and Best Family Event.
And head of Globe Education, Patrick Spottiswoode says its success has inspired the team to bring the concept back to the Bankside venue later this month, this time with a new story but featuring some familiar faces.
"We are known for our mainly adult-focused productions but last year was a first attempt at a specific family theatre show and we won three awards which was fanastic," he says.
"It pleased us hugely because our aim is to introduce Shakespeare to as many people as possible and it's lovely to engage families in his stories.
"But we were thrilled and totally bowled over by how popular the show was. What was so great about it was the way in which it was constructed - it's like a series of episodes with various theatre styles and atmospheres.
"The audience is constantly being stimulated in different and imaginative ways so you can never sit back.
"And of course it's great to see kids who are totally absorbed by what they see on the stage."
The show is a sequel to last year's story which wowed youngsters and their families with a tale of a the Muse, a dragon who was desperate to burn the Globe theatre down.
"He's back," laughs Patrick. "We had great fun and the dragon was so popular we had to do it again.
"Last year we based the story on the 400th anniversary of the burning down of the Globe.
"The audience was taken on an interactive journey where their help was needed to uncover vital clues to stop the dragon in his quest to set fire to the building.
"Fortunately he didn't succeed but he's an obstinate thing and is back and determined to finish what he tried to do last year. However, this time he has in his sights our new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and he's got great confidence that he can burn it down - and as it's lit with candles and made of wood, I suppose he's got every chance!"
The immersive and interactive promenade production, which will play between August 18 and 27 August, takes audiences on a journey around the unseen areas of both theatres.
It starts within the exhibition space and then invites them to discover strange, magical characters including an Elizabethan hermit hiding under the stage, fight ethereals in a secret forest and have tea with some strange puppets who live in an abandoned library.
There is also a meeting with one William Shakespeare before they come face to face with Muse, the fire breathing dragon.
Audiences will be treated to a variety of puppets, actors, props and special effects of which Patrick says the dragon is the most spectacular.
"He is a giant puppet which takes three people to operate," he enthuses. "It's a wonderful piece of puppetry and the smoke and fire effects are brilliant.
"It's going to be very exciting!"
Once again, the show has been devised in house, with help from Punchdrunk, Melanie Wilson, and Little Angel puppet theatre and is directed by Adam Sibbald, Globe Education Events manager.
It is also an important part of the Globe's continuing and developing programme of creating opportunities for different audiences.
"A really important part of our ethos is to create suitable workshops or performance pieces for a particular audience," says Patrick. "This one is about devising a programme for children and it has been a wonderful journey for us as it has been a great way to create conversation and a shared experience for families.
"It has also encouraged us to look at our website and develop our Globe Playground for children to provide them with more ways to engage with Shakespeare."
As well as the website and specific productions the education department has also set up regular storytelling sessions at the theatre which Patrick describes as "absolutely joyful" and its Playing Shakespeare productions aimed at teens are now a regular feature of the Globe's programming.
Plans are also afoot to take Muse out on the road to other theatres across the country.
"This has been a fantastic project which we hope will once again inspire and excite families," says Patrick.
"It's such an exciting journey and if it goes as well as last year we will be very pleased."

Muse Of Fire is on at the Globe theatre, Bankside between August 18 and 27. Tickets cost £10 for children, £12.50 for adults. Visit www.shakespearesglobe.com or call the box office on 0207 401 9919.

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