Tag Archives: Royal & Derngate

Jack and the Flumflum Tree by Julia Donaldson coming to Northampton in July

Jack and the Flumflum Tree

Jack and the Flumflum Tree

A NEW theatre show for children comes to Northampton’s Royal & Derngate in July, based on the book by Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson.

Hot on the heels of the excellent Moominsummer Madness, Jack and the Flumflum Tree will be performed in the Underground theatre and is suitable for children aged 4-10.
Here’s the press blurb:
Another much-loved story by Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson, Jack And The Flumflum Tree comes to the Underground stage at Royal & Derngate from Friday 4 to Sunday 6 July.

Jack’s Granny is sick with a bad case of the moozles. And the only cure is the fruit of the fantastic Flumflum Tree which grows on the faraway isle of Blowyernose. It’s a perilous journey, but Jack bravely sets sail, with a motley crew of only three – and a large patchwork sack that Granny has filled with an odd assortment of items from chewing-gum to tent pegs. But what use will they be against hungry sharks, a leaky boat and a thieving monkey?

The show has been devised by Bamboozle, the company behind last year’s stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Crazy Hair, and Royal & Derngate’s Christmas show for younger children, Along The Riverbank. Puppetry is by Sue Pyecroft – whose enthralling work will be familiar to anyone who saw Alice In Wonderland, Crazy Hair or Along The Riverbank – taking her cues from the book’s charming illustrations by David Roberts.

With beautiful songs, engaging puppetry and Bamboozle’s trademark multi-sensory style, Jack And The Flumflum Tree promises to enchant family audiences, including those with a learning disabled child. It is recommended for children aged 4 to 10, or for ages 7 to 14 with learning disabilities.

Jack And The Flumflum Tree comes to Royal & Derngate from Friday 4 to Sunday 6 July, with performances at 11am and 2pm daily. Tickets, priced at £7.50*, can be booked by calling Box Office on 01604 624811 or online at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk.
* A transaction fee of £2.50 applies to telephone and website bookings only. Does not apply in person, or to Groups and Friends, and is per-transaction, not per-ticket.

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Wearing silly hats and waving a very formal goodbye to the class of 2012 – University of Northampton graduation

IT’S a funny old week for the staff of a university when graduation comes around.

For the students, finishing years as students and about to step tentatively out of the world of lectures and daytime TV, it’s very exciting. This is when they finally get to wear the funny hats and show their parents/family where the money went.

For the staff it comes a few weeks after the students have actually left. They’ve probably been marking piles and piles of papers solidly for four weeks and quite possibly cursing the students whose work will, or perhaps won’t, have earned them the piece of paper declaring them a graduate.

Three years is a long time to be seeing someone almost every week. And naturally most lecturers develop relationships (not THAT sort) with their charges. You see the first years arrive, nervous and eager, who then proceed to doss their way rather too casually towards year two. This is the serious year, when it starts to dawn on them university work is nothing like A Levels, and they need to get their finger out to get better grades which will reflect in their final degree grade.

Then if they make it to the third year, there are far fewer lectures and kicks-up-the-backside. They must start to actually use what they are meant to have learned to prove their academic worth.

For the last three years I’ve been teaching BA (Hons) Journalism students and have joined my academic colleagues on stage at graduation to see my final year students collecting their gongs.

The terrible toilet mirror shot, just to show you the silly hat

There’s quite a lot of pomp and circumstance involved, with lectures having to don gowns and silly hats and parade onto the stage to sit and clap as hundreds of students collect their awards. We all wear the ‘colours’ of the university which gave us our degrees or the level of our academic magnificence (mine is a very boring, bottom-rung-of-the-ladder affair), while some of the PHD doctors and higher ‘Profs’ have some very elaborate garb. I envy those who have a squishy hat rather than a mortar board like me. They are a devil to keep on and can leave a delightful indentation on your forehead for the rest of the day.

This year’s summer event was at the Derngate theatre, rather than in a marquee at Park Campus. As we waited in the wings for our fanfare to signal our entrance, we were given the instruction by an usher “may I remind you ladies, to keep your knees together while on stage. This ceremony is being live streamed on the Internet and we’d like to look dignified.” Apparently another group of academics were also told not to pick their noses on stage.

There’s a lot of clapping; really a LOT. Every student has their name read out and a few weeks before the ceremony we lecturers have to fill out forms giving the phonetic spelling of the names of students with hard to pronounce monikers. It’s a wise move. The students prefer their big moment if it sounds like you at least know their name.

Perhaps because I’m a newish lecturer, or maybe because since having my own children I’ve become a teary old wuss who wells-up at the slightest hint of sentimentality, I always get a fizzy nose and a lump in my throat when my students come up for their moment of adulation. Even, or perhaps especially, the ones who have driven me mad with laziness, inane questioning and unfulfilled promise over three years. The ones who at times I thought wouldn’t actually make it to the end. (Not so much the ones who by some bizarre twist of mathematics have managed to scrape a degree with very little attendance, effort or submitted assignments. But I clap them too).

And by the way, while it’s pretty hard to fail a degree, it’s also pretty hard to get a decent grade. We had a first-class award on our course this year, thanks to the hard-working Miss Farida Zeynalova, BA (Hons), and lots of ‘two-ones’. Then there are ‘two-twos’ (nicknamed, the ‘Dessy’, as in, Desmond ‘Tutu’), and a ‘third’. You can even fail quite a lot and still chose to pick up a ‘non-hons’, or an ordinary degree, with the honours. Those who fail completely have a last chance to re-sit and potentially graduate next year.

Some of the class of 2012, with Dr Jon Mackley (floppy hat); Farida (who achieved First Class Honours), Tamika and Simon.

Afterwards there’s usually a glass of fizz and a chance to Meet the Parents (this is where you see cocky students become models of civility). It’s a form of closure as we wave off our charges and hope to goodness they will get a job or at least a sense of achievement and purpose from the university experience.

It may surprise you to know we must be doing something right as despite the fees, the numbers are going up. Three years ago there were only five graduates on my course, last year around 18 and this year around 30, with only three having to resit exams or final projects to graduate in February. Next year’s Northampton journalism graduates are likely to number over 40, assuming they knuckle down and keep taking the metaphorical kicks to the derriere. And yes, despite the rumours of the media being a dying beast, there’s plenty of jobs out there for the ones who want them.

The new graduates can get quite emotional as they leave, despite often doing nothing but moan about all the assignments and essays they’ve been forced to do. It’s a mixture of sadness at leaving friends and familiarity, and fear of the unknown.

What comes next? My advice is usually to live a little, for a little while. The conventional new graduate will be in their early 20s, and while already with some debt, without the responsibility of a mortgage or kids. It might be their last chance for a while to see the world, or pursue a dream. But they must also remember they will only be the new-blood; the keen and fresh faces in their field, for a short while, until next year’s graduation ceremonies.

Meanwhile, as I guess all teachers do, we wave off the leavers and get ready for the next batch of undergraduates, with their quirks and excuses, promises and potential.

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Review – The Gruffalo’s Child, Royal and Derngate

A MUM took a stroll to the deep dark theatre – accompanied by a three-year-old and an 11-year-old (the seven-year-old was tucked up in bed ill and the 13-year-old decided he’s rather be ‘daan taan’ with his mates).

Copyright Macmillan Children’s Books

There was much excitement about the stage show of the children’s book, the Gruffalo’s Child, the sequel to the hugely popular Gruffalo which saw a mouse outwit a big hairy monster. The Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s Child are repeatedly requested at bedtime in our house and we know the words off by heart.

We’d actually attempted to see the original Gruffalo on stage at a festival last summer and had given up due to the huge crowds. The best place to see theatre of this kind is definitely in a small theatre.

The Gruffalo’s Child sees the eponymous heroine sneaking away from Dad into the deep dark wood to find if the Big Bad Mouse really does exist.
The show at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate was really very good, exactly as children’s storytelling should be, but I think the weather and the Royal Wedding may have had an effect on ticket sales as it was far from full. Surprising for such a popular book and well-thought-out production.

Not necessarily the cast we saw, but the only pictures available. Oh and they are Copyright Geraint Lewis

The script sticks fairly close to the original story but to duplicate it would make it considerably shorter than an hour (I can whip through a bedtime story in about four minutes), so there’s additional dialogue and songs.

The cast of three were excellent, particularly Yvette Clutterbuck as the G’s child, who bounds around the stage like a demented Kathy Burke in Perry the Teenager mode, getting the laughs, the bravado and the vulnerability just right. It’s a very physical piece of theatre, and she must have been boiling in her costume, purple prickles and all.

Our 11-year wasn’t sure if the Narrator/Mouse was actually meant to be the Mouse, as he said her costume wasn’t ‘right’, but she drove the pace of the  show along well.

The Gruffalo Dad was immobile due to the constraints of the costume on set, and Bonnie wanted to see him stomp about. We were confused by the Snake, who didn’t seem in the slightest bit snake-like. Half the fun of the snake is the alliterative dialogue of his ‘s’ sounds. This snake was portrayed as Bruno from Strictly Come Dancing. Eh?

Copyright Geraint Lewis

 However, The Owl and the Fox were marvellous, and the song and dance routines between the three actors went down a storm. Perhaps surprisingly, our 11-year-old was more captivated than his three-year-old sister. She was just too fidgety when the dialogue strayed too far from what she knew. She did, however, literally dance in the aisles, and both kids loved the use of ‘Stick Man,’ who we’d never really noticed in the book.

Oh, and after the merchandise overload of Peppa Pig Live, I didn’t see any parental mugging at The Gruffallo’s Child, as I think Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, the original authors, are quite strict about it.
We did get a ‘Souvenir Postergramme’, with a picture on one side and the cast info on the other, which I thought was a great idea.

The Gruffalo’s Child is certainly worth seeing if in your area. It’s a loving re-creation of the book and has an intelligence about it which is sadly lacking in many other ‘branded’ productions aimed at the under-tens. Getting theatre right for this age group is essential for the future of live performance.

The show is still touring at the following venues:

May 2011
 Rhodes Arts Complex, Bishops Stortford
07-08 The Capitol, Horsham
11-12 Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
13-14 The Broadway Theatre, Peterborough
17-19 The Courtyard Theatre, Hereford
20-21 North Wales Theatre, Llandudno
24-25 New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth
28-29 Dorking Halls, Dorking
31 West Yorkshire Playhouse (The Quarry Theatre), Leeds

June 2011
01-04 West Yorkshire Playhouse (The Quarry Theatre), Leeds
08-11 Theatre Royal, Plymouth
16-18 The Swan Theatre, Wycombe
19-20 Buxton Opera House
24-26 The Rose, Kingston
27-29 The Orchard, Dartford

July – 01-02 Yeovil Octagon

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