PROPerty of Polka!

April 18, 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! Last week we were left with lots of questions as to how we could make PROPerty of Polka work as a touring show travelling around schools? How will we move everything from one school to another? Can we still use sound effects and lights even though the show isn’t happening in a theatre?


Before we reveal all, time for a quick ‘Did You Know?’…



Did you know that Polka actually started life as… you’ve got it! A touring theatre company. A puppet theatre company to be precise. This  photograph taken in the 1980’s, although Polka’s tradition of touring goes much further back to the 1960’s. You can just about make out our name on the side on the van. It looks very different to the one we use today:



Everything needed for the show had to be able to fit into this van and then easily set up by Jess and Ramin. That means no elaborate sets or costumes! This was a challenge for the team but, in true Polka tradition, we think they did a great job.



A large part of the rehearsal process is about finding solutions to these questions. Rehearsals aren’t just about learning lines and deciding where to stand. Lots of work goes into finding the best way to tell the story. It is also an opportunity for the actors to learn how to interact with the more technical parts of the show, like the set and costumes. This is very important, especially on a show like this where the actors are on their own and must organise everything themselves before every performance.



The person you can just about see sitting next to Roman in the photograph is called Jordan. Jordan is a Stage Manager. This means she is in charge of looking after the actors and keeping everything relating to the show in order and on schedule. Jordan has been in every rehearsal with Roman, Jess and Ramin but once the show is on the road, they’re on their own!


This is what Jess and Ramin created the whole show out of (plus a box of Polka tricks!):





The overhead projector creates a light source. To change the colour of the light you simply hold these colourful sheets of plastic called gels over the bulb, exactly the same as a lighting designer would use in a theatre. This light would then shine on to a projector screen, creating a background. You could try this at home with sweet wrappers! Sound is very important, it sets the scene and helps create different voices. We can create sound on a laptop, which is sent to a speaker attached to a pedal controlled by Ramin and Jess. Every time they want the sound to change they simply tap the pedal and the cue goes.


Add in a Polka basket full of props and costumes and you’re ready to tell a story, all from the back of the Polka van!


See you next week when we’ll be exploring the stories behind the PROPerty of Polka story…