Polka Theatre's New Artistic Director Outlines Her Plans

Details released of the venue's Christmas productions

Helen Maltravers. Picture: Twitter

April 24, 2023

The new artistic director and joint chief executive of the Polka Theatre has said that she aims to make it a venue at which children of all cultures and backgrounds can see their favourite stories on stage.

Helen Maltravers took up the role this January having worked as the Polka’s Senior Producer with previous roles at LAMDA, New Diorama Theatre, The Lyric Hammersmith and Theatre503.

Her aim is that the Polka becomes recognised as the UK’s most ambitious and exciting children’s theatre, cementing it as the number one destination for artists who want to create work for children.

She explained, “My vision for Polka is for it to be a creative and inspiring home for all children and families, every one of whom should see themselves, their cultures and backgrounds, and their favourite stories on stage.

“Polka is often a child’s first experience and interaction with theatre. It should be, in that moment, an incredible and unforgettable moment, that can also seek to empower. That experience should show them that theatre is accessible, inclusive, exciting and crucially, for everyone.

“Our home, Merton, is an incredibly diverse borough in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Polka has a responsibility to lead the conversation around ensuring all children have access to theatre that is relevant and representative.

“It also feels more important than ever to put a spotlight on theatre and the arts for young people. We talk as a sector all the time about theatre being empowering and vital, but theatre for young audiences is so often overlooked as a beacon for ground-breaking or high-quality productions and engagement in these conversations. And we are often telling the most important stories, to the most important people.”

She intends to focus on investment in future generations of theatre-makers and will expand and develop this through the theatre’s PolkaLAB and Artist Development strands. Current schemes include Polka’s Curtain Up! (6,000 free tickets for school children this year) and Polka Invites schemes, Youth Theatre, Freefalling and Write Here Write Now programmes and the theatre’s Young Voices creative advisors.

She adds, “My vision for Polka’s programme is work that feels contemporary, that can be challenging, impactful and playful. The values placed in the writing, the design, the performance and the messaging should be no different to any other production you see on main stages.

“Over the years, Polka has worked with some of the biggest names in children’s literature and playwrighting, and collaborated with leading theatres across the world. Polka has inspired generations of theatre makers and lovers. I want to continue this vital work, with productions and activity that speaks to an audience of 2023.”

She has announced this week her first commission, a production of the Snow Queen which will part of this year’s Christmas offering. It will run from 11 November – 21 January in the Main Theatre for ages 6-12, alongside The Night Before Christmas for children aged 2-6, playing in the Adventure Theatre from 18 November – 14 January, returning to Polka after a run in 2021.

She has commissioned writer Jude Christian, who has had work performed at the National Theatre and the Lyric Theatre, to take on the project.

Speaking about the production Helen said, “It is incredibly exciting for Polka to be teaming up with Jude to create this ambitious and magical piece of theatre. The themes of The Snow Queen feel so poignant for this moment in time, with reflections on exploring the unknown and sometimes feeling a little lost, but celebrating the ultimate triumph of friendship and love. Jude’s ability to pair the hilarious with really fresh, contemporary and accessible adaptation is perfect for this Main Theatre show and family audiences, and I am beyond thrilled that it is my first commission as Artistic Director at Polka, we’re in for a brilliant Christmas.”

Tickets are on sale now via polkatheatre.com or call 020 8543 4888.

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