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Theatre Design students work with Red Earth Theatre to devise an enchanting performance

Year Two students developed and performed an immersive adaption of Russell Hoban’s ‘Soonchild’ for local school children

Scenes from Soonchild in Waverley Theatre
Scenes from the students' performance of Soonchild

Students in their second year of our BA (Hons) Theatre Design course have recently taken part in an exciting collaborative project, in which they devised and performed a production of Russell Hoban’s ‘Soonchild’ for groups of primary school children.

The students have worked on the realisation and performance of this piece with Red Earth Theatre. The Midlands-based company - an Arts Council England national portfolio organisation - was established by Wendy Rouse and Amanda Wilde in 1999, and has been touring innovative theatre for children and young people ever since.

Renowned for their commitment to inclusivity and communities, Red Earth Theatre regularly deliver performances in both English and sign language, aiming to use creative captioning and audio description to enhance access. Working with Red Earth Theatre therefore represented a significant opportunity for the students to embrace industry, and to learn about integrated theatre and inclusive techniques for storytelling.

Impressive puppetry during the performance of Soonchild
Impressive puppetry during the performance

Following  a  brief set  by  Red Earth Theatre earlier in the term, the students have been working over  a  five-week period on interpreting elements of  ‘Soonchild’, a mythological story by Russell Hoban, for Red Earth’s Autumn 2019 show. This included weaving in songs specifically composed for the show by Derby-based folk trio Threaded. They explored the potential for visual imagery, including puppetry, in particular shadow puppetry, object theatre and playful captioning. Their hard work culminated in performances of their work and ideas to pupils from Mellor’s School.

Amanda Wilde, Red Earth Theatre Co-Artistic Director, was full of praise for the Theatre Design Students, telling us: “It has been a really brilliant process. One of the things that happens when we work with students who have a design focus, as opposed to a performance focus, is that we get such a rich pallet of opportunities. They have some amazing ideas that we wouldn’t necessarily have thought of from a performance perspective.”

She continued: “I’ve been able to watch the students process and realise some really beautiful ideas for the performance. It is an amazing opportunity for us and the design team, to be handed a pallet of such wonderful opportunities on a plate!”

Theatre Design lecturer Sean Myatt commented: “This was a great opportunity to explore and research aspects of past and present technologies of shadow play, a very complicated and precise form of performance. A truly valued project that has a positive impact all-round, not only for Red Earth Theatre and our students, but for the communities that they perform to.”

Published on 11 December 2018
  • Subject area: Art and design
  • Category: Culture; Current students; School of Art & Design