This week, I and a team of circus skills experts took out in to the depths of Herefordshire, bringing The Tapscrew circus from Philip Pullman’s ‘I Was A Rat!’ out to the sticks.
Under the leadership of Pink Elephants circus group, members of The Courtyard visited the parish halls of Kingsland (April 9) and Moccas (April 10) to spread the word about this story, and get lots of people in Herefordshire exploring and practising some circus tricks.
On arrival, children were sent to the “rat stations” where they were face painted, given noses and thought about the physicality of being a rat. Once successfully whiskered and clawed, the rats then made their way over to the sensory box station, where they felt around in dark spaces if they dared, and smelt various containers to see if they could use their animal instincts and guess what the naughty Courtyard crew had put in them! Once taking the plunge and putting their paws in slime was too much, the children congregated and learnt to embrace their inner circus performers with a range of activities.
Starting the circus show was playing cat and rat using a parachute. Cats would carefully tread their way around a waving parachute in a desperate attempt to locate a naughty, wriggling rat which was underneath. The rats then learnt to juggle with scarves and the rags which they had gnawed from Bob and Joan’s house, watching them float in the air. The morning session was full of top class balancing acts, who managed to walk our tightrope with peacock feathers balanced on parts of their body, they showed their pace and ability to wriggle as they ran as fast as they could through the rat run of hula hoops and even managed to cut up the cheese they stole from the market with a string – using a Diablo! Every child worked hard at becoming the perfect rat through using these skills, (and it wasn’t just the little ones either?!)
Thanks to everyone who came along and participated in the activities. Now you will all be able to go home and say, “today, I was a rat!”
Also, for those who didn’t make it to our workshops, we also have an exciting competition to take part in for ‘I Was A Rat!’
‘I Was A Rat!’
This May, a stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s classic children’s novel ‘I Was A Rat!’ will be performed at The Courtyard. The story is about a young, scruffy boy who is dressed as a footman arrives at the house of Bob and Joan one night exclaiming “I Was A Rat!” Bob and Joan are unsure of what to do with this boy, try taking him to City Hall, the Police Station, the doctor’s and to school to try and get him used to the human world and to also try and find his real parents. But they can’t, because he is a rat that has been turned into a boy.
Bob and Joan name the boy Roger and try to help him, but Roger becomes confused by the human world and runs away, and is captured by a menacing circus ring leader who turns him into a freak show. After escaping from the circus Roger is described to other humans as a monster who all want him to be gone forever. But there is a Princess who is called Aurelia that wears glass slippers and remembers Roger from her old life (when she was an ordinary girl called Mary-Jane) and rescues him back into the arms of Bob and Joan.
Does this story sound familiar? A mouse turned into a footman with a girl who is turned into a princess and wears glass slippers?
What we want you to do is write a story like Roger’s. Think of all the main characters and their story, but also think about their friends, their enemies or their families and write a story about one of them. For example, you could write a story about one of Sleeping Beauty’s fairy godmothers, or you can tell us about what the White Rabbit does when Alice is not in Wonderland. The choice is up to you! The competition is open for all school children from Year 3 to Year 11 in school and will be judged in two categories: Year 3 to 6 will be judged in the Primary category and Year 7 to 11 will be judged in the Secondary category.
Your story should be no longer than 2 sides of A4 double spaced, and we need to read it by Friday May 24th to be in with a chance of winning. Please send your story to Jennifer Booton, Press and Marketing Officer to FREEPOST SWC5263, The Courtyard, Hereford, HR4 9ZZ.
The winning storyteller will win a signed book from Philip Pullman, a family ticket to ‘I Was A Rat!’ and will also have their story printed in Herefordshire Society magazine and in every programme for ‘I Was A Rat!’ during its run at The Courtyard.
It’s your chance to give the smaller characters a bigger story of their own!
‘I Was A Rat’ runs at The Courtyard from Thursday 30 May until Saturday 1 June, with performances at 7pm, and a matinee on the Saturday of 2pm. To book tickets or for more information call the Box Office on 01432 340555 or visit http://www.courtyard.org.uk.