Celebrating 30 years of creating and performing top-quality children’s theatre, The Pied Piper Theatre Company is back on a nationwide tour with its latest show, Robin’s Winter Adventure.
Performing in 21 venues and in more than 70 schools across the country, Robin’s Winter Adventure is at The Hawth, Crawley, on Sunday, December 21, and Monday, December 22.
Tina Williams, founder and artistic director of The Pied Piper Theatre Company, is delighted to look back on three decades of success.
“We do a lot of touring into schools, and I think at the time we started there was not so much good quality theatre for children. Once they decided they liked us and we were good, the schools have continued to ask us back. We still go to schools we first went to 30 years ago.
“We did really a year of touring to schools and then we started to do theatres at the weekends. We have had periods where we have been taken on by commercial producers that have booked the tours for us, and we had about five years in the West End at the Fortune Theatre, just underneath The Woman in Black. We did the day-time show, and they did the evening. It was great.
“We were able to get a lot of publicity. I did Woman’s Hour and The News at One because it was unusual for there to be something for young children. Now there is a huge amount of theatre for children. Theatres like the National and the RSC are now doing fantastic things for children, so I think it is now harder for us than it was 30 years ago when we were new. We are not new now, and there are a lot of people doing work for children. We have just got to hope that audiences will be able to tell the difference between the ones that are good and the ones that are less so.
“And it is always difficult when you are doing new writing, particularly in a recession. In a recession, people go for something that is safe and familiar, but we are a new writing company. Next year we are doing The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, and the one we are doing at the moment is a new piece. We have also done a number of picture books, but the last few years have been completely original plays.”
Robin’s Winter Adventure tells the story of a young boy’s courage as he faces the challenge of moving from his cosy village to the hustle and bustle of London – a heart-warming tale told with rhythm and rhyme, music and song and captivating puppets.
“I like to write about something that has moved me,” Tina says. “I saw something on TV about families being made homeless. One day they were in their home, and the next day they were not. That made me think about how difficult it is for children sometimes when they have to move.
“We have just had a lovely five-star review that said it was the sort of theatre to introduce children to and that it was lovely to watch something that didn’t send the adults to sleep. So that’s the first thing in good theatre! Don’t send the audience to sleep! I think that’s a given.
“But I like to have the children really, really involved so that you can hear silence and then maybe someone makes a comment, but it is a comment about the play. I think you have also got to be writing about something that has some relevance to the children and to their world so that they are gripped and entertained, but so that there is some purpose there behind it.”