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Film reviewers: Half-price tickets

Always have a startlingly passionate opinion on film? Could you give Mark Kermode a run for his money?

We’re enthusiastic about audience feedback, your opinions on film – what you love and what gets you riled! So send us your film reviews, short or long and we’ll get them posted up here on our blog.

Reviewer half price icon 250

Getting your review to us and your half-price ticket couldn’t be easier. Wherever you see this logo we’re looking for your thoughts.

1. Call up Box Office on 01432 340555 and let them know you’re booking a reviewer’s half-price ticket for one of the films below.

2. Come along and enjoy your film – the first screening of the selected film is the only applicable one for this offer.

3. Write your quick-fire review and email it to us within 18 hours of the film to competitions@courtyard.org.uk subject titled with the name of the film.

Films in the offer this season:


Robot and Frank |  Sat 4 May 6pm

Compliance | Sat 18 May 5.30pm

Caesar Must Die | Tue 21 May 6pm

Jack The Giant Slayer | Tue 28 May 2.30pm

Much Ado About Nothing | Mon 24 June 6pm

The Reluctant Fundamentalist | Sat 29 June 2.30pm

The Courtyard reserves the write to publish or not publish reviews. Any questions send us an email or tweet us @CourtyardArts

Jen’s Lens ~ Taking the Rat on the Road!

Playing with the parachute in Kingsland

Playing with the parachute in Kingsland

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.rat2

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?!)

the diablo - or a cheese and its string!

the diablo – or a cheese and its string!

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!’

Writing Competitionrat1

 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.

Dave’s Faves: Three directors’ visions in Cloud Atlas

Find out how star-studded film Cloud Atlas surprised our programmer’s preconceptions….

Think you’re up to reviewing it too? Check out the blog post below to see how your review could win you three of David Mitchell’s novels. Perfect reading material…

James D'Arcy and Ben Whishaw in Cloud Atlas

James D’Arcy and Ben Whishaw in Cloud Atlas

Designing the Jungle: Carl Davies talks us through his costume concepts

I caught up with Carl Davies, Jungle Book costume designer, to find out what he has in store for our upcoming Courtyard production…

Carl Davies with one of his favourite costumes for Jungle Book, Chil the Kite.

Carl Davies with one of his favourite costumes for Jungle Book, Chil the Kite.

“It’s quite fun to do the Jungle Book because you can do anything with it…. you don’t necessarily just dress them up as an animal, they’ve got their own individual characters which is quite nice…. for instance, Baloo the Bear is going to be a geography teacher in tweed.

“Most challenging costume is probably Mowgli. Mowgli, you’d almost imagine a loin cloth and nothing else but because it’s for the stage you have to… we’ve made it quite ‘patchworky’ and given him a top.

“I think my style is very layered…. especially with the Jungle Book, there’s a lot of fur, a lot of leather, a lot of layers, but it works because everything has to move in the right way.

“The main characters will stand out, they’ve each got their individual colours…. Chil the Kite is going to be an air hostess!”

Written by: Toki Allison, Deputy Marketing Manager

Dashing through the Jungle: Diary of a (rogue) Director

Written by: Grant Brisland, Learning, Participation & Programming Manager

We’re coming very close to the production weeks now where the young people will start their intensive rehearsals, the set will be built and the final alterations to the costumes are done. The process in all takes about a year, once we have been able to agree a title, and the time has flown by. This is my third year in the producing seat for our Junior Youth Theatre production and the process is different every time. This year is particularly special and there haven’t been too many bumpy rides so far (famous last words?!).

Jungle Book rehearsals

Jungle Book rehearsals

I don’t often attend many rehearsals – I tend to dip in and out and mainly ensure that everyone is happy with how things are going. However, this year, whilst David was celebrating a good friend’s marriage, I was not only in the producing seat but the directing one too. For a director to hand over the reign, even for a day, is a difficult one. This is ultimately David’s (metaphorical) baby (his actual one is due during the run!) and it is my responsibility to ensure that this rehearsal is as productive as the previous weeks. After all, the young people only have 48 hours in the rehearsal room before we start the production week and there is a lot to learn in a very short space of time.

So, at 7am on Saturday 23 March when my alarm went off I jumped out of bed and eagerly awaited what the day had in store. Now, for anyone who knows me will know that this level of excitement and anticipation is not my regular response to having to get up early (yes, getting up at 7am is early!). However, I knew that I was going to enjoy getting to know our Youth Theatre members better as well as seeing their talents on display. At the end of an exhausting day with a wine in hand and some time for reflection it was clear that we have another great production on our hands. The commitment, passion, enthusiasm and drive shown to me from the young people throughout the whole day was extraordinary. This has only been mirrored by David and the rest of the production and creative team who are working tirelessly to ensure that The Jungle Book is a huge success.

Jungle Attack

Jungle Attack

The production and design team have been in situ (in a freezing cold warehouse at Rotherwas) for just over a week and the early results are very exciting. Working with Carl Davies, a friendship I forged on another Courtyard Youth Theatre production for Alice in Wonderland in 2005, has been a real pleasure. Originally from Herefordshire but now living in Sheffield, Carl is creating what looks to be our most colourful set to date and although this isn’t a blog entry to thank people I should also credit Richard, Adam, Jules and Les for their assistance in the first week too. Indeed, I even got my own hands dirty on Friday!

I also owe a huge thank you to our Assistant Director, Jack Spreckley, for his help throughout the rehearsal day on Saturday. Having come up through our Youth Theatre and taken on main roles in previous productions, it was great to see him in action with the young people. He has been a great asset to David throughout the whole production and I was very grateful for his support on the day. We’ll miss him later in the year when he goes to Camp America but know that we have trained him in good stead to carry The Courtyard flag on US grounds.

I just hope David likes the alterations I have made to his direction… Mwhahahahahaaaaa

Tony’s Thoughts ~ NTLive review: Alan Bennett’s People

Written by Tony Johnston, Box Office Assistant

Alan Bennett’s People is the latest play to get the National Theatre’s NTLive treatment – a live broadcast of the production, beamed by satellite from the South Bank in London to over 700 cinemas worldwide, one of which was the Courtyard in Hereford!


After a short introductory film which touched upon the main themes of People, the curtain rose to reveal a stunning set; the stage had been transformed into crumbling stately home, occupied by Dorothy Stacpoole (Frances de la Tour) and her companion, Iris (Linda Bassett). Burdened by the property’s upkeep costs, the pair scheme to flog the property and its contents to an auctioneer, against the wishes of Dorothy’s younger sister who would rather hand the property over to the National Trust.

Ostensibly, the play is a damning, but often hilarious, critique of that very British institution – the National Trust – and its patrons (or people).  In it, Bennett attacks our society’s fetishisation of the past and its overly sentimental attitudes. In one memorably ludicrous scene, a representative from the Trust is overjoyed to discover that one room contains a vast array of chamber-pots, filled to the brim with the urine of ‘celebrities’ who once visited the property – Evelyn Waugh, Edward Elgar and countless others. This, he exclaims, gives the home a unique selling point; it is something that will be of interest to people.

It is these people that Dorothy objects to most of all. She doesn’t want them ‘traipsing through’ her house and her words echo those of Bennett who, in the introductory film, complained that the Trust’s patrons ‘don’t seem to be looking for anything’. Instead, they shuffle from grandiose parlour to opulent dining room, taking photographs and listening to the tour guide, before rounding off their visit with a trip to the tea-room. The heritage industry is shown to be cold and elitist, driven by the commodification of the past and the chasing of profit.


Bennett traces this fixation with wealth to Thatcherism and the 1980s, which he sums up with the mantra: ‘if it didn’t have a price, it didn’t have a value’. In doing so, he alludes to People’s real concern: the state of the nation. For despite Dorothy’s protestations that her home is ‘not a metaphor’, as the play progresses, the building (an old Tudor property sitting on a bed of coal) comes to symbolise the very essence of England.

Rather than decorate our past in pomp, concludes Bennett, we should allow it to crumble. It is our inability to let things decay that has lead to our national obsession with producing and upholding a rose-tinted version of history. Through People, Bennett shows how this narrative is sustained by the elaborate properties of the Trust, ultimately exposing it as shallow and empty of meaning.

We will be showing a special re-screening of People on Sunday 24th March at 7pm. Book here.