Review: In the Winter Wood
On Saturday 8th December, I visited Wimbledon's Polka Theatre for a lively and memorable multi-sensory performance of In the Winter Wood devised by Jan Blake. Upon entry to the Adventure Room where the performance took place, attendees followed a series of animal footprints which lead to a warm, yet somewhat enchanting dimly lit space which was set to be the Scandinavian Winter Wood.
Once inside, both adults and children snuggled up beneath the blankets provided and remained fairly silent in anticipation of what was to come. As we all sat around in a circle, Jan Blake took to the centre of the room using a combination of rhythms, movements, and props to deliver the tales of the Winter Wood.
Having never been to a children's performance quite like this one, I was most impressed by Jan's ability to keep everyone focused and engaged throughout, whilst still allowing ample crowd interaction. Although there were a few instances where the performance could have been disturbed by crying or impromptu interruptions from children in the audience, there was little that could interrupt us from these well-constructed tales.
The performance seamlessly flowed through a number of tales which were centred around animals such as the ram-goat, the pig, and the tortoise, and their quest to build a new home in the Winter Wood. Each tale took a unique form and remained interesting throughout the duration of the performance as the narration switched between the perspectives of the many different animals involved. In one tale, the audience were made to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of each of the animals as they set out to complete a task, which eventually showed that differences do not make one better than the other.
Whilst this was the case for just one of the stories, each of the tales of this Winter Wood were embedded with several key messages about bravery, friendship and working together, making this production a safe, fun way for children to learn and explore at the same time. As the children in the audience responded to Jan’s leading questions, their knowledge was tested, and they were able to confirm facts about the wider World. Overall, one might conclude that this performance was a reminder of just how enjoyable learning can be.
Living in an age which seems to be centred around technology in almost every aspect of our lives, the use of mobile phones was prohibited in the theatre. Whilst this could have easily left us fidgeting away mid-performance, the stories were so inclusive that the only fidgets observed were dances. In fact, one of the most engaging aspects of the performance came in the form of catchy melodies which saw almost all attendees of all ages singing and dancing along.
Even after the performance had ended, the songs and melodies from the Winter Wood could be heard in the children’s playground as they continued to sing along. To conclude, I would say that the Polka Theatre together with Apple and Snakes Productions did a great job of collaborating with Jan and her team on this project as they successfully used a series of fun and effective storytelling to equip children with knowledge, confidence and facts about the World.
By Genevieve Etienne-Farrell
In the Winter Wood
To 17 February ADVENTURE THEATRE
A Polka Theatre and Apples and Snakes production, Devised storytelling by Jan Blake, Design Matthew Edwards, Composer & Sound Designer Silver Sepp, Lighting Designer Clancy Flynn, Storyteller Laura Sampson (for selected dates)
Ticket Link: https://polkatheatre.com/winterwood.
December 11, 2018