Thursday, 24 October 2013

Anaconda Escapes in Riseley Theatre!

Sorry I've been off the radar a bit. Immediately following my incredibly busy Book Week away, I've had a couple of weeks of family stuff to deal with, so no time to do much else.

The full cast (including Class Two covered in snake spit!)

Anyway, while I play catch-up, I thought you might like to see some photos and hear about a fabulous Riseley Youth Theatre production of Class Two at the Zoo I saw recently. 

I just love those penguins!

It was performed at the Riseley Community Theatre in the very same village where Class Two at the Zoo's author, Julia Jarman lives, so John and I travelled down especially, to visit Julia and see the play.  

Two gorillas and a kangaroo being kissed by a koala
The elephant and hippos

The scene was set perfectly before the curtain even went up, with animal noises filling the theatre as we were taking our seats. Then we watched each group of animals slowly wake up in the zoo, which was a perfect way to show off all the fabulous costumes and showcase all the excellent young actors individually. 

The two spotty cheetahs (and some elephant poo!)

I was very curious to see how the book had been made to work as a play. The story was adapted for the stage by Julie Laslett, who sadly died just a week before her play was performed. She would have been very proud - it worked extremely well.

The narrator was the zoo keeper from the book, who related the story as a terrible incident he remembered:

Zookeeper as narrator

He was helped by two assistants, a pair of well-meaning but dim mucker-outers: 

The zoo-keeper's assistants: a fun addition to the story

They added a pantomime element with some great comedy routines, as well as a familiar song with cleverly adapted lyrics:

'I know an anaconda who swallowed young Kyle, 
I don't know why
He swallowed young Kyle - 
What a horrid reptile!'   

Ring any bells? 

Molly wedges open the anaconda's jaws

The two zoo assistants were perfect when the anaconda escaped. There was lots of incompetent chasing around trying to recapture him, plus of course lots of 'He's behind you!' By this time he had grown into a huge creature, with animated eyes (which glowed in the dark!).

Class Two escape!

Julia and I signed books of course, before and after the production (we sold so well, we ran out of copies of Class Two at the Zoo!). Then we went for a drink with some of the people who run the youth theatre group. It sounds like a brilliant organisation - free weekly drama workshops for any children between 6 and 17. Most of our actors started in similar youth theatre groups and of course it's a fantastic way for building confidence generally.

It was lovely to hear as well, how so many local people got involved, writing the musical score, making costumes, building scenery, chasing funding, sorting publicity...

Class Two taking photos of the giraffe (great costume!)
John and I had a smashing weekend. As well as the play, it was so nice catching up with Julia and of course chatting about our latest project, The Jungle Grumble. John took this lovely photo of us in Julia's garden (showing off as usual!):

On our way home, John and I made a little detour to Cambridge, as John had never been. We were lucky enough to have a gloriously sunny day.

Thanks so much to Jim Allen for the photos of the play. It has been really difficult to narrow them down, as there were so many brilliant costumes. If you would like, you can see more here.

And of course a huge thank you to Riseley Youth Theatre for their fantastic production. I enjoyed it enormously!

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