Writer and director of BRRR! our family show, now available to watch in full online, reveals the true inspiration for the production’s central character, ‘Steve’ the penguin…
Without that grumpy little penguin none of that would have happened
When the others were trying to keep cool in the normal summer climes, the Keeper told us, this little one would be out sunbathing in the warmest spot he could find. My youngest daughter was quite taken with him – cue being forced to purchase a fluffy penguin in the gift shop to join the already heaving ranks of largely ignored soft toys back at home – and she recounted the story for weeks afterward to anyone who’d listen.
So, that Autumn, when trying to work out what this show for younger children would be, I remembered the little penguin and the story of ‘Brrr!’ was born. I roped in two fabulous performers to make it with me; Umar Butt an old friend and regular collaborator, and the simply fantastic Becky Barry, who is also an amazing Sign Language interpreter, regularly working with the RSC on their signed performances.
The three of us devised the original production which involved Rosie the Reindeer coming apart from Father Christmas’ sleigh and landing on Steve the Penguin’s half completed aeroplane. The central plot involved Steve’s desire to build an aeroplane out of the rubbish washed up on the arctic shores, so he could visit his cousins in sunny South Africa to escape the cold. Rosie, on the other hand, needed to get back to Father Christmas so she could finish helping him deliver presents. There were no words (apart form the character’s names) in this version, created for audiences under five, and the whole show was signed by Becky and Umar. My youngest daughter Sophia was roped in to provide narration, so parents and older children could follow a narrative, and the studio was converted into the Arctic, the show happening in the round with the audience on giant snow cushions.
Steve the Penguin’s little brother Stanley is, to this day, probably my favourite character of any we created in a kids show
It was incredibly well received and we wanted to take a slightly different version of the show on tour, which is the version we filmed at Jacksons Lane in London. This time the cast included the fabulous Dan Edge as a new character – Steve the Penguin’s little brother Stanley; he is, to this day, probably my favourite character of any we created in a kids show.
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