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Jens Lens – The Jungle & the Community

This Easter, 200 children aged between 4 and 14 will take to the stage in a full scale, all singing, all dancing production of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Youngsters from The Courtyard’s Youth Theatre will act out the parts of Baloo, Bagheera and Shere Khan, as we follow the story of Mowgli and his journey from boy to man through following the laws of the jungle.

Director David Durant instructs Mowgli and the wolves

Director David Durant instructs Mowgli and the wolves

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of watching this piece come to life, under the direction of Youth Theatre Director and Education Officer, David Durant, with attentive assistance from Helen Durant and youth theatre graduate, Jack Spreckley. It was brilliant to see the characters become animated, and not just through spoken lines, but also in their stage entrances and exits, body language and gait. It was clear that every individual in the production had thought about their animal, and how that animal would in turn speak, move and interact with other species as well as their own.

I also had the great advantage of sitting in for the blocking of the defeat of Shere Khan. I won’t give too much away, as this climactic moment is going to be a very exciting piece of theatre to watch. However I saw both boys work through the scene in slow motion, intertwining elements of dramatic irony, stage combat and tension in a gripping brawl! The convincing nature in which this scene was played out was in fact so realistic that I felt myself feeling rather jubilant and triumphant.

The monkey's give Mowgli a hard time!

The monkey’s give Mowgli a hard time!

I was also privy to watching some of the musical numbers from the show. I watched the Bandar-log (the mischievious monkey clan to those unfamiliar with Kipling’s version) jump on people’s backs, cajole and generally wreak havoc as they pulled up their hoods, rapped, and gave the jungle a healthy dose of attitude. The bears came on after and rehearsed their chorus number. One that was much more loyal, intellectual and virtuous as they sang about protection and the laws of the jungle.

Bagheera and Baloo salute the Laws of the Jungle

Bagheera and Baloo salute the Laws of the Jungle

After just one day in the rehearsal room, I now cannot actually wait to see the finished performance in April! With influences of Bollywood in the dance routines and exotic rhythms that channel India in the songs, this truly is a performance not to be missed.

Community Podcasts
To celebrate the wonderful Kipling story further, we have been asking people involved with the production and The Courtyard all over Herefordshire to record extracts from the novel which we have been launching as podcasts. To listen to some live readings of the novel, click on the link below:-

Jungle on the Road
If you fancy learning more about the Kipling novel, then join us this Easter as we hit the libraries of Herefordshire! On Tue 2 April we will be in Hereford, Wed 3 April we are in Leominster, on Thu 4 April we will be in Bromyard and on Fri 5 April we will finish off at Ross on Wye. Between the hours of 11 and 12pm we will be storytelling, doing animal themed acting games, learning Bollywood dance and partaking in some arts and crafts.

jungle roadshow

For more information on the roadshow and the activities, call us on 01432 340555.

Dave’s Faves: A Borderlines 2013 Special

Borderlines Film Festival Friday 1 to Sunday 17 march 2013

Now that I’ve retired as Director of Borderlines Film Festival what I most looking forward to at this year’s Borderlines is sitting back with a glass of wine, relaxing with old friends and actually going to see a few of the great films on offer.

First up will be Babette’s Feast, widely regarded as the greatest ever film about food, a film I have hugely enjoyable memories of from 25 years ago and which will be the first of a number of fine old classics to see again, there’s Polanski’s Tess (one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen), Bertolucci’s The Conformist (always in my top three greatest films of all time), and Ken Loach’s Kes that was shot by Chris Menges, one of Britain’s top cameramen. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing Chris interviewed about his work over the last 50 years as both cinematographer and director, judging by the terrific A World Apart, he really should have directed more films. There’s a fabulous interview with Chris in this month’s Sight & Sound, what’s really whetted my appetite is how he talks about light and colour and finding the best way to serve the story.

Chris Menges talks with Francine Stock  on 1st March

Chris Menges talks with Francine Stock on 1st March

“If you believe light can heal, which I do, if you believe light can give a story energy or pathos, if you believe that light is a way of expressing the truth, then colour is an intrinsic part of that because colour is an intrinsic part of light.” Chris Menges

Talks like this and Derek Jacobi‘s are a real joy for any film fan and they’re the sort of thing that we only get at Borderlines so for me are absolutely unmissable!

There’s a sprinkling of excellent previews this year including a couple of my favourites from London Film Festival, In The House which is huge fun, the charming Wadjda, and the one I most want to see again, Village at The End of the World, one of those documentaries that gives you a glimpse of a different world and is full of the most fabulous images of the ever-changing light on snow and ice. Apparently director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) will be there on Saturday 9 March to introduce Village at The End of the World and answer questions about it, the kind of bonus you get at all good festivals.


Village at the End of the World

And finally I’m going to take a second look at a few films that have stayed with me since I saw them at other festivals over the last few years. Aurora, Post Tenebras Lux and War Witch are all films that have got under my skin, leaving me with a lot to think about, ideas, images and stories that have been bubbling away at the back of my brain and which I’d like to see if I can make any more sense of this time. I’ve got my fingers crossed that War Witch wins the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this weekend, an outside bet for sure, but you really don’t see films like this very often and everywhere its played audiences have responded to its extraordinary story. I know that both Aurora and Post Tenebras Lux will demand patience, a willingness simply to wait & watch, but at the same time both directors are asking questions about what cinema can do that few others have the courage to ask. Not everyone’s cup of tea for sure but for those of us who spend our lives immersed in an ocean of images its good sometimes simply to sit and float – and not have to worry about a tiger!

See you at Borderlines!

David Gillam
Borderlines ‘Artistic Director in Honourable Retirement’

war witch

War Witch

Jen’s Len’s- Paranoid delusions of the animal kind

Yesterday myself and two colleagues took the afternoon to travel up and catch the touring production of I Was A Rat!  which is due to come to The Courtyard at the end of May.  The show is an adaptation from the Philip Pullman novel, directed and adapted by Teresa Ludovico in association with Teatro Kismet.   We arrived at the Birmingham Old Repertory Theatre around lunchtime, and had a quick chance to talk with representatives from other venues on the tour circuit, before taking our seats in the auditorium.

Philip Pullman's 'I Was A Rat'.

Philip Pullman’s ‘I Was A Rat’.

At first I was surprised by what lay out on the stage before me.  Sat in an opulent old theatre house with plush red seats and ornate high ceilings, I was looking at a bare black box, with some stark white light flashing intermittently.  The surroundings of the auditorium quite obviously contrasted to the clinical and daring nature of the open stage.  Yet this bare, limited, set-less lay-out was soon of no importance to me, as I soon got captured by the unique production.

The story started with old married couple Bob and Joan, (played by Tyrone Huggins and Lorna Gayle respectively), whose monotonous evening events are interrupted by an unfashionably late and hurried knock on the door.  Enter a small boy, who looks at the couples confused faces and exclaims “I was a rat!”  Unsure of who this boy is, where he has come from, and why he only repeats this phrase, Bob and Joan take him in for the night, and poignantly name him Roger, an action that allows us to encroach on the private and sensitive subjects that have also structured these two characters and the way they live their life.

Roger, played by Fox Jackson-Keen, slowly begins to familiarise himself with living amongst the human race, despite knowing that he really was once a rat.  However, he quite often comes into difficulty, as when he visits the doctor, he has trouble with simple Maths, and when he goes to City Hall and School he finds pencils (and his teacher’s finger) too irresistible to nibble at!  Jackson-Keen played the part of young Roger magnificently, and displayed immensely impressive physicality that really captured a nervous and twitchy disposition that you would imagine a reincarnated rat to have.

Fox Jackson - Keen, as Roger

Fox Jackson – Keen, as Roger

The show’s director, Teresa Ludovico says “Every fairy tale presents a simple narrative and the right amount of light and shade, to enable the child to identify with the hero of the story and allow them to go on the same journey of initiation.”  This journey is one that certainly brings ups and downs, and conflicts moments of pure belonging and bliss for Roger with dark periods of exploitation and uneasiness.  For example, his capture at Mr Tapscrew’s circus, although visually rich and narratively nightmarish, you are able to see how his unfortunate transformation from animal to man is one that has led him to become the object of ridicule.

Jackson-Keen as Roger is also surrounded by an all male cast of 5 brilliant actors and musicians.  The actors doubled up as police dogs, schools mistresses and young tykes brilliantly, using their bodies and only a high chair to encapsulate this fantastical world.  Special mention must go to their efficient adaptability, and use of theatrical components along with their own bodies to change the pace and flow of the piece.  These capable actors’ also portrayed moments of satire and dark humour in the play as they mock the tabloid press as “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, bouncing ridiculous ideas off each other and spinning stories on society’s obsession with cultural figures.  They also drew laughs from displaying the perceived corruption of capitalist politicians, meaning the grown-ups had something to amuse themselves as much as children were wowed by Roger’s acrobatic ability.

The Tapscrew Circus

The Tapscrew Circus

The fairytale element of the story was further explored through the beautiful use of puppetry used to portray Princess Aurelia, or ‘Mary Jane’ as Roger knows her, who is the catalyst for his acceptance into the human realm, and helps free him from cruel captivity and leads him back to his adopted parents Bob and Joan.

The use of live music played by the community cast on stage was brilliant, and had you singing little ditties all the way home!  And special mention must also go to the fantastic costumes that made you really feel like this story had been lifted off the page and put in front of you.  The cast were incredible and the script carefully dealt with themes of acceptance, belonging and love in a way that could be understood by children and adults alike.  I really recommend all families to catch this over their Spring half term.

I will conclude with more words from the show’s director, Teresa Ludovico.   “Great stories, and I include fairy tales in this category, are layered like rocky soil.  To know them in depth, you have to be willing to dig them up, to penetrate them.”

 Philip Pullman’s I Was A Rat comes to the Courtyard on Thursday 30 May until Saturday 1 June with performances at 7pm, and a 2pm matinee on the Saturday.

Some reviews to the show can be read here:-


A Historical Journey of Pomp and Circumstance

ImageThis February the Academy of Ancient Music are coming to The Courtyard with Bach’s Orchestral Suites.

The Orchestral Suites are a series of grand and graceful dances, paying homage to the French baroque style as championed by the ballet-obsessed King Louis XIV (pictured). Written during Bach’s years in Leipzig, where he had a wider range of instruments at his disposal than ever before, the Suites revel in new sonorous possibilities and employ varied combinations of wind, brass, stringed instruments and timpani.

Sneak peek at The Courtyard Holiday Roadshow!

With the Courtyard Holiday Roadshow fast approaching, goodie bags being created and balloon pumps at the ready, we thought we would give you a sneak peek of some the games and activities planned:
Don’t Quack Up – You have to be a serious duck to win this game!


· Have the children sit in a large circle. Sit with them so you can judge who’s in and who’s out.

· Starting with the birthday child, ask them to say or do something silly. Whoever laughs is out and has to sit in the middle of the circle.

· Whoever sits in the middle of the circle has to start acting silly (making funny faces, etc.) but without talking.

· The number of people in the middle of the circle will accumulate as the game proceeds.

· Now the person to the right of the birthday child gets to say or do something silly while those in the middle act silly. Whoever laughs at this person or the people in the middle are also out.

· The last person left is the winner!



Duck, Duck, Swan

· Have your children sit in a circle.

· Select one child to be the first player.

· That child walks around the outside of the circle saying, “Duck, duck, duck . . . swan!” tapping each child’s head as he says the words.

· When he says “swan” and taps a child’s head, the child jumps up and chases the first player around the circle back to his own place.

· The first player must sit down in the chasing child’s place before he is tagged.



What animal are you? Age 2-5

· All children sit in a circle

· You call one child forward and whisper an animal to them

· They act out that animal (without making any noises) to the others who have to guess what the animal it could be

· The first child who gets it right gets to act out the next animal.

· (very small children can be allowed to make the appropriate noise to help other guests.




Mouse bookmarks: http://www.allaboutyou.com/craft/knit-free/craft-ideas-for-kids-mouse-bookmarks-49739

Mouse finger puppets: http://increations.blogspot.co.uk/2008/02/mouse-finger-puppet.html



For even more games and activities why not check out the Tales section of our website: