Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Naughty babies

The babies had unraveled themselves

From their parents spool

Dropping to the floor on their soft fringed feet

No one heard as they patted down a windy path

Weaved their way to a silken sea

No one saw as they tangled themselves

Into the fibres of a ropey boat

And hid as the boats crew of scissors and crochet needles

Clicked and clacked their way

From stern to prow

The babies slid from The Ropey boat

Onto a flaxen shore and tip toed through mud and leaves

Through stringy gales

And thready storms

Over loops and bends

And kinks and streams

Until they found

Where the spinners lived.

The babies pulled strings from their tummies

Of golden and green

Strings from their heads of a shimmering sheen

Strings from each finger

Strings from both thumbs

Strings that held their laughter

And the glare from the sun

They piled these strings

Into the arms of the spinners

Who span and spun

Who twisted and twirled

Who knotted the strings from the baby boys and girls

And knitted and sewed

Until the spinners held

The longest, smartest, smoothest

Silliest scarf you've ever seen

With laughs from babies

And rays from suns

Trapped in its weave.

the babies leaped back

through the windy wind and the rain

Slipped onto the boat

And took on its earthly stain

Fell from the ship

In a matted mess

And wound their way to their parents

Who were crying in distress

“Where have you been”

They pleaded and pled

Why did you leave

What have we always said

Don't unravel

Don't let your frays touch the floor

Don't sneak out

When there are scissors abroad

And needles that will poke

and shorten your thread

Why did you go out

What's wrong with your heads

Then the babies

Unfurled their scarf of laughs

Their woolen stream of beams

And curled it around their parents

In never ending reams

And though the present was lovely

And got with the best of intention

The parents were angry

At the babies misdirection

And tied them tight to

To their rules of correction

They counted the babies in a stringy inspection

Until The babies learnt

That they shouldn't run off

No matter how good the reason

Because parents will worry

No matter what the season

Be it Christmas

Mother or Fathers day

Be it Easter or your brothers birthday

You should run off no matter

no way.

Tuesday 2nd December

Tim leads us through a very funny warm-up which gets me chuckling – our first task is in Knee boxing – in pairs we must use our palms to hit our opponents knees – I am paired with Lowri who puts me to shame – she is a regular Muhammed Knoberly Knees, a Cassius Cartiledge– I'm not suggesting that her knees are really knobberly I use it purely for the pun.

Our next warm up game is to use our left index finger as a weapon to poke in the small of our opponents back. This time I'm paired with Tim who is a true Swash Backerler, A count of Monte Chiropractito and gets me several times – I think I would be a rubbish fighter.

Finally we must choose a character from the show and think of a sound and movement for that character this sound and movement is then repeated by all the remaining five in the circle who exaggerate and mutate as they go until the original sound and movement maker gets last say in doing the final exaggerated version. All the characters are taken so I choose The String Machine Thingy as my character and personify it as a knee and elbow spinning chugger.

Now thoroughly warmed up – rehearsals begin in the Dame Judi Studio at the Unicorn. All the props and set are in the performance space so the actors are asked to do a high charged, guerrilla, ham version of the show – it's not long before the characters are dancing their way across stage and finding all sorts of wonderful additions for the script.

After a manic and very very entertaining hammed version of the show the cast are asked to do a line run. Its a new experience hearing the show just read– especially at the start when both Lowri an Jumoke are reading over one another as they introduce some imaginary children into the space. Though they are restrained by their chairs there is no shortage of animation from the actors as they gesticulate and find new positions to pull their mouths into.

The weather is taking a hold as actor hold various flu and cold beating concoctions Jumoke has elixir de ginger – a water bottle with raw ginger in side!!! Yuck, Nick has a liquorice and marshmallow root tea! and Lowri has peach cordial! What a healthy bunch.

In the afternoon I become a child and am led thorough the show – the actors do a wonderful job in entertaining my naughty child. Things are coming together and I can't wait to see it in the space.

Later in the afternoon Max holds a music rehearsal where there are harmonies and melodies aplenty. Now sitting in The Unicorn as the light fades in the Judi Dench Studio it all feels suddenly very real. By the end of the week the adults acting as youngsters will be replaced by real bona fide children and all the set will be in place – we will have to decide homes for the Stringy Bridge, Ropey Boat and Windy Path and will have the full array of strings and pulleys that make up the set. - I can't wait.

Wondrous Bubbles

Bathing the babies in bubbles
Taken from a mothers hot bath
Scented with lavender and rose oil
Taken from hills where flowers outgrow the grass
Bubbles filled with song that never burst
That can tickle laughter from the cutest mouths
Dry the softest eyes
Bubbles that squirt out of fingers
Squash between toes
Find dirt on the back of necks
Behind ears
Rest in the small of backs
Find prayers on palms
And falls on knees.

Bubbles that amaze like floating eyes
Baubles of Christmas excitement
Crystal balls of joyful futures
See through suns shining but not burning
Light footballs
Flexible glass
Contained breaths
Filmed dreams
floating mercury
Soundless pops
Barless soap
Wondrous – poptastic clear rainbow painted bubbles.

The Red Cord

There is a red cord
That should only be pulled
In times of utmost need

It's a bright cerise string
And if you pull the thing
Your need better be desperate

Because out will pop
With a great big slop
A man in day glow yellow

He'll come to your aid
And he doesn't get paid
It's emergency services man

He's got a computer that tinkles
He likes to eat winkles
At the cafe on the motorway

Whatever needs to be tackled
he doesn't get rattled
Frightened or even a little scared

He's the emergency services
A man with no vices
The emergency services man

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

27th November 2008

The show is coming together wonderfully, today we had loads of fun playing on The String Machine Thingy it is a wonderful heath Robinson-esque contraption that sings, and alights and chugs and woos, we experiment with timing to decide how best to get the kids on to the machine – it has pedals and handles and bells which the kids will operate during the show.

Lowri's Emergency services man is becoming increasing prophetic as she comes to the rescue of stringy and Ropey who need help to get the String Machine Thingy working again. She speaks every line as if revealing the deepest darkest secret of the universe and has no qualms with grabbing hold of Ropey and Stringy and pouring her welsh dialect into their ears so that they are clear on what has to be done to make the machine work.

Oily Rehearsal - 26th November 2008


On Monday the crew were in the studio with MD Max recording the songs from the show to be put on to CD – this morning we listen to Max's produced versions of the songs that sound brilliantly ethereal and surprisingly christmassy.

The rehearsal space is like a well tended garden in spring – new blossoms and buds revealed on each visit. Today red and blue rope spills off of a chair. The string mummy and daddy sit atop a chariot furnished with four curved standards tipped with balls of brown twine, but the biggest change – apart from the actors developing various coughs and snivels :-( is the string doggie. He – I think he's a he – is no longer a prototype puppet with black foam body – he is now a woofing, barking, arfing ball of brown yarn with a long loom of a nose and eyes! He only had white balls for eyes before resembling something out of a Tim Burton movie but now he has pupils and is far more becoming for them – he also has gorgeous little tufts of fluff of hair on his ears and on the antenna that shoots out the top of his/her head.

Poor Nik the musician is down to a barely audible whisper a he struggles with a cough -I hate coughs they are the most persistent of cold and flu symptoms, the most productive and zapping of morale. But Nik is a trooper and continues to play marvelously – but alas no singing today.

The squelchy mud song, that has the children miming traveling through disgusting sticky squelchy mud is rehearsed – there is something totally satisfying about watching four adults making exaggerated leg movements as they navigate an imagined quagmire.

By the afternoon String Mummy and String Daddy have also had their prototype forms replaced by puppet maker Mark Parrett. String Daddy was a colourless spool based puppet – today he is taller and wrapped in red and blue string like a Ropey superman. String Mummy is also bigger, her foam rotundness replaced with blue balls of string and fantastic sprigs of electric blue hair.

Stringy leads Tim into the rehearsal space following a red string taking him from Nik's Billy Cotton to the string machine thingy all the way to Ropey's big toe where the string ends. Ropey awakes using a hanging string summons his clothes to him from above.

Griff makes a great Ropey – especially at times of panic – when he runs from stage left to stage right stopping suddenly ad having his legs lift in comic inertia exaggerated style.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Well, we're in the last week of rehearsals so one way or another we will have to be ready for public performance by Saturday morning. Having said that I have no doubts we will be, and we are all looking forward to getting into the run.

I think the show has all the ingredients to be a hit with the 2 - 6 year old target audience (and accompanying adults) with good tunes, interesting characters, funny bits and above all a string dog. In fact I suspect we could just throw the dog into the audience and it would do the show to the audience's satisfaction.


Monday, 24 November 2008

The Set Box
The String Machine Thingy!

More pictures from the Oily Team

Pictures from the design team for 'How long is a piece of String'

20th November

The string team are back at the local primary school - but this time with a different reception class. A few changes have been made for this group. The first being how the children are brought into the space - before they were seated in a circle but today a rope lies on the floor and they are asked to sit behind it in an 'end-on' fashion. The string babies were given out and the 'How to hold a baby song 'sung. In this set up the children seem immediately more responsive to the discussion following the song. I wonder if this is down to a difference in the class or because the children are more used to sitting end on with one focus rather than in a circle. When asked what the babies can do after eating many suggestions come forward notably 'Burping' and 'teeth brushing'.

It comes to our attention that not all the children keep hold of their babies which leads to an interesting discussion on how to invest the string babies with worth to increase the likelihood that they will be kept hold of. Naturally there will be some children who won't want to hold on to their babies - which is absolutely fine - but the challenge of investing these babies with as much worth as possible is fascinating. At the end of the school session - I noted that the majority of the children were keen to whisper to their teacher the names they had given their babies - This seems like a brilliant way of investing worth - inviting the children to share with everyone the names of their babies and not just that - but also making it a habit for the actors to constantly check in with the children regarding the state of their baby - 'Is your baby happy?' 'How does your baby feel now?' - the hope being that the more we enter into the world of the string babies - the more the children will enter into that world and therefore be less likely to leave their babies lonely on the side :-(

18th November

Today  the String team went to a local primary school to try out some parts of the play on a reception class. The play features a host of string babies that the young audience interact with. The babies have been beautifully made by the Oily design team. The children immediately took to the babies and believed in them, this was evident from the first song sung with the children 'How do you hold a baby' a song that demonstrates how best to look after a little stringy baba. After the song the children were asked what their babies like to eat and drink - now normally Tim Webb (director and co-writer) and I play the role of  'big kids' interacting with the actors as if we were two-six year olds. When we are asked what our babies like to drink we normally say things like Ribena or milk or hot chocolate the children however proved to be far more up to date - their babies like to drink coke! And when asked what they like to eat, there was no mention of sausages, or pancakes or jelly or any other kiddy food - no, these babies were eating their own legs!

After a little discussion on the well-being of their babies the children were taken on a journey down a Windy Path, across a Stringy Bridge and finally in a Ropey Boat all with sung instructions. To our relief the children quickly cottoned on to the "rules" of the game and had great fun following the path, swinging from the bridge, and sailing in the boat.

Finally the string babies were put to bed with their string mummy and daddy and the children were asked to tip toe back to class so as not to wake the  stringy sleepers and this they did diligently, tip toeing all the way across the hall and silently into their classrooms.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

How long is a piece of String - Rehearsals

Rehearsals have been in full swing for a few days but unfortunately I have missed them due to the dreaded lurgy which appears to be taking London by storm.  On arrival I am greatly pleased to see a rehearsal room festooned in strings and the rehearsal version of the String Machine Thingy that makes up a major part of the story. The actors show me their new warm-up with a song they have invented called 'How Long is a Piece of String' which is a swinging blues/jazz number complete with bee bops. Whilst they've been rehearsing I have been putting the final touches to The String Booklet, a booklet of poetry and exercises to accompany the show and which features a poem also called 'How Long is a Piece of String'.

Todays rehearsals are focusing on the songs - I have so far only heard rough recordings of the songs from MD Max Reinhardt - Hearing the songs live is beautiful. It's very touching to hear these pieces that only a couple of weeks ago were poetic explorations on my computer screen. Both Max and Musician Nik Ammar have done a great job setting the poetry to music and the vocal talents of the actors make the pieces... well.... sing!

After lunch I get to play baby as the actors perform the first half of the show to me - already without all the gubbins the show is looking great and part of me is wishing I was  3 years old so that I could be led over the stringy bridge by Ropey or take charge of a very stringy doggie.

Joseph Coelho

Monday, 21 July 2008

Oily Cart

Since 1981 Oily Cart has been taking our unique blend of theatre to children and young people in schools and venues across the UK. Challenging accepted definitions of theatre and audience, we create innovative, multi-sensory and highly interactive productions for the very young and for young people with complex disabilities.

By transforming everyday environments into colourful, tactile ‘wonderlands’ we invite our audience to join us in a world of the imagination. Using hydro-therapy pools and trampolines, aromatherapy, video projection, and puppetry together with a vast array of multi-sensory techniques, we create original and highly specialised theatre for our young audiences.