Pup­pet fes­ti­val for the young and old

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - STAGE -

THEATRE at its best can change lives and York-based com­pany Fly­ing Cloud, whose lat­est pro­duc­tion The Book is tour­ing the re­gion, are aim­ing to do just that.

“We want to em­power people through cre­ativ­ity,” says Le­an­dra Ashton, the com­pany’s founder and artis­tic di­rec­tor. “That may be through our out­reach work with com­mu­nity groups or through our com­mu­ni­ca­tion train­ing with businesses. It’s all about people find­ing their au­then­tic voice to ex­press them­selves.” Their work with the cor­po­rate train­ing depart­ment at York Univer­sity has been par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful and has, in­di­rectly, en­abled them to fund the tour of The Book. “We have been funded by the Arts Coun­cil to tour this pro­duc­tion but I think the rea­son we at­tracted the sup­port was be­cause of ev­ery­thing we had done on our own,” she says. “To be an artist in our time you have to be quite proac­tive – there isn’t the money around that there once was.”

Ashton, an ac­tor who has worked all over the UK and in Europe and Amer­ica, set up Fly­ing Cloud in 2010 af­ter de­cid­ing to come back to York­shire where she grew up. “What I was al­ways strug­gling with as a job­bing ac­tor was that you act and then it’s over. I thought ‘theatre has so much more po­ten­tial than that’,” she says. “We are try­ing to re­de­fine what it can be. For me it has been about bring­ing people to­gether, chal­leng­ing my­self and my cre­ativ­ity and help­ing other people to get in touch with theirs.”

It is a theme that comes through strongly in the play, she says, and seemed ap­pro­pri­ate for the com­pany as it em­barks on the next phase of its de­vel­op­ment. “We did our first play in 2012 at the West York­shire Play­house and in the past three years we have re­ally grown. There are three of us now – my­self and di­rec­tors Jennifer Kidd and Marta Is­abella Rizi – and it felt right be­cause it is the first play we have all done to­gether.”

The three of them have also co-writ­ten The Book which con­sid­ers hu­man com­plex­ity, di­vi­sion and iden­tity – and how we cre­ate sto­ries for our­selves. When they were look­ing into the his­tory of books, they found that they were of­ten con­nected to di­vi­sion. “There is the ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple of re­li­gious books,” she says. “But there are other more sub­tle books too. There are so many ex­am­ples around the world of di­vi­sion and people stick­ing to a very fixed iden­tity.”

Set in three dif­fer­ent eras – 2034, 2014 and 1214 – the play charts the jour­ney of a book over a thou­sand years and how its mes­sage changes ac­cord­ing to the people who come across it. The writ­ers’ in­spi­ra­tion came ini­tially from the me­dieval Is­lamic state of Al-An­dalus in Spain. “At var­i­ous points in its his­tory the prime min­is­ter was Jewish,” says Ashton. “In the 1200s there were amaz­ing dis­cov­er­ies in sci­ence and maths which came about through col­lab­o­ra­tion and be­ing cu­ri­ous. And that is at the heart of what Fly­ing Cloud is about.”

The com­pany is named af­ter a 19th century clip­per ship that trav­elled from New York to San Fran­cisco round Cape Horn in record time – the record was held un­til 1987.

“The nav­i­ga­tor was a young woman called Eleanor Creesy,” says Ashton. “She was my in­spi­ra­tion – if she could do that in the 1800s, we can nav­i­gate our Fly­ing Cloud to new hori­zons.”

Ge­or­gian Theatre Royal, Richmond, June 21; Har­ro­gate Theatre, June 24 & 25, SJT, Scar­bor­ough June 27 & 28. THE BEV­ER­LEY Pup­pet Fes­ti­val re­turns to the re­gion next month.

The bi­en­nial fes­ti­val fea­tures pup­pets to en­ter­tain adults as well as chil­dren.

There will be 24 tick­eted shows, chil­dren’s work­shops and also street theatre in Bev­er­ley town cen­tre.

This year’s chil­dren’s shows will fea­ture fairy tales, larger-thanlife in­sects and mon­sters.

The fes­ti­val takes place from July 11-13.

For fur­ther de­tails, tick­ets and the full line up visit: www. bev­er­ley­pup­pet­fes­ti­val.com


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