Sunday, 20 May 2012

Treading where I trod before…

Yesterday I went to see my friend Kinny Gardner and watch his production of 'Pied Piper' at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. I should explain here that Krazy Kat Theatre Company are the only company in the UK to sign throughout using BSL to translate the dialogue for a young deaf audience. They are trained signers, and their terrific skill is to make the signing a part of the show, beautifully choreographed. The effect is to seamlessly reinforce the story. It must be seen to appreciate it, and if you ever get the chance, go see!

The Pied Piper was signed throughout, as ever, by the two actors as they skillfully manipulated the puppets and the set to created the story and make us all laugh, gasp, cheer and clap all the way through. Jim changed hats, and accents, to become the town baker, toy-shop owner, shoe-maker and milliner in turn. And the rats themselves were very rat-like, with thick black fur and rather horribly muscular tails. The Hamelin children became blue, ghost-like creatures as they were led away during the night by the piper, and Tinca's Mayoress was gracious in her apology for her bad behaviour in order to secure the safe return of the children, her deaf son being the only child who was not lured away by the piper's music. An autistic child in the audience got very upset and ran up and down the auditorium looking for his favourite seat, crying loudly, while his mum anxiously made sure he was safe (the seating is on three levels). But Jim and Tinca, the actors, kept it all flowing smoothly, outwardly relaxed, and sustained our interest despite the distraction. I loved it. I earnestly hope the current grant applications secure enough money for Krazy Kat to continue to wow us with their incredible, magical and inclusive theatrical experience, as what they offer their hearing and deaf audience is absolutely unique and therefore incredibly important to support.

I remember the Tricycle when it opened in the early eighties. I was living in a huge shared house in Kilburn, with two of the acting McGann brothers (Paul and Stephen), Helen McCookerybook, and my cat, Patta. The Tricycle was a friendly, innovative space, with a feel of the Traverse in Edinburgh, but small. The local cinema was a small ramshackle affair, which often showed cheap all-night horror films (the prices were cheap and the horror was 70s). The patrons thought (charmingly) that they were either in their own sitting-room or perhaps visiting a very relaxed friend, because they would talk loudly throughout the film, and if they identified a friend in another row, climb over in a very informal way to catch up on the latest goss. Nowadays I would find that annoying, but at the time I found it refreshing and nice that people thought connecting was more important than viewing. That cinema is long gone and perhaps the Tricycle has soaked up its custom, as it now has an inbuilt cinema (apparently, though I haven't seen it), a bar and a restaurant. The theatre itself books a lot of very interesting productions.

I retrod my old stomping ground and saw the big old house. It hasn't changed very much. Still divided, though the flats now are bigger. Still a bit ramshackle and tacky. Minus us, though, so front door firmly locked (it was always open when we lived there). Ah well.

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