PROPerty of Polka!

May 17, 2019

You may have heard that we’ve got a big birthday coming up this year, so we’ve decided to do something BIG to celebrate with schools across the borough!

PROPerty of Polka is the fun-filled, action-packed tale of our 40-year history, made especially for schools in Merton. So far it has been performed at 23 schools and enjoyed by over 3,000 people! That’s pretty big. This is the story of how the show came together, how we took it out on the road, and the exciting adventures that now await the summer term…

Welcome back! We have a very special blog post this week from guest blogger David Duffy (aka the best production manager in the universe). David gives us his insight into what it takes to bring a project like POP to life…

“This spring Polka have been in the strange position of busy putting together a new touring production while simultaneously closing the building ahead of our huge rebuilding project. So while we’ve been clearing spaces ready for demolition, we’ve also been churning out costume and props for a new show.

As part of the wider celebrations of our 40th anniversary our new production Property of Polka features two characters who are helping to clear out the precious props and costumes from the theatre. The actors tour into schools and ask the children to help look after the props while we’re closed for a year. They can’t stop themselves from sneaking a look inside the box, and in a whirlwind 25 minutes dozens of puppets, props, sound effects and costumes are all mixed up together. Old stories meet new, a ship sinks in a Shakespearean tempest, Aladdin flies by on his carpet, we meet Anne Frank writing her diary, Cinderella meets her prince and the Snow Queen casts a chilling spell over the audience. It’s a dizzying mash-up of shows from four decades of the Polka archive.

The really lovely touch is at the end, where a box is left behind for the children to use to make their own shows, and this term schools across Merton are making new performances using the ideas and techniques they’ve seen in the show.

It was a real pleasure putting together these introduction to theatre packs, everybody got involved with making them and we all wished somebody had come to our school with something like this when we were growing up. It was important that everything in there had real value, and would be something that would trigger ideas in children interested in making theatre.

Each box contained a kit to make your own stage model boxes, complete with miniature figures, dolls house furniture and tiny versions of our old shows Gorilla and The Magic Paintbrush.

There were gorgeous raffia and wicker masks based on the extraordinary designs from Three Sat Under the Banyan Tree, and shadow puppet kits to make the ogre from Charlie and Lola.

New waistcoats were handmade in the very wardrobe room that was being dismantled for storage, and each box had a miniature manikin for making your own costume designs.

The list of gadgets went on – torches, lighting gels, USB sticks filled to the brim with sound effects, stage management headsets. Putting the boxes together was like Santa’s workshop – a huge production line assembling enough for two dozen schools.

We’re all looking forward to visiting some of these schools as the term goes on to see how their shows progress, and hopefully these beautifully assembled boxes will stay with the schools beyond this year. An amazing artefact, full of little starting points for young people to start making their own shows and telling their own stories.”

 

And we really can’t wait to see what these brilliant groups come up with. Stay tuned for a sneak peak at what the schools have been up to in next week’s post…