About Us & How it all began

Tangere Arts was created in 2002 by David Johnston and Ava Hunt, and has extensive experience in producing high quality arts in education experiences for young audiences and communities throughout East Midlands and nationally (please see individual pages for more detailed information).  Tangere Arts works in association with various partners including: Unicorn Children’s Theatre, Manchester Royal Exchange, Derby Live, Nottingham Playhouse,  Derby City Education Authority, Derbyshire Health Authority, Creative Partnerships and Nottingham City Education Authority.

All our work is fully evaluated and reports are available on request.  For information about any of the shows or workshops, what we are currently touring and our future plans, please contact us:

Director  –  David Johnston

Email:                  admin@tangere-arts.co.uk

Telephone:          01629583533
Address:              2 west view, church st, tansley, matlock , derbyshire DE4 5FE

 

website              www.tangere-arts.co.uk/wp

 

 

Looking back from2012

David Johnston has worked as a director, writer, producer, senior management and chief executive for more than 30 years in theatre for young people and arts in education.

He gained a degree in politics at Sheffield University and a PGCE at Bretton Hall in teaching drama. David has worked extensively and delivered workshops/lectures internationally in 16 different countries throughout the world.

He co-founded Perspectives Theatre Company (now New Perspectives), and was  employed as Artistic Director of Theatre Centre taking over from Brian Way (1976 – 1987).  The work that he was responsible for commissioning during this period was ground breaking included Dave Holeman’s “Peacemaker”, “Frankie’s Friends” and Nona Shepherds’ “Getting Through”.

After leaving Theatre Centre he founded the Take Off Children’s Theatre Festival, has been a Visiting Associate to “Come Out” Festival, Adelaide, South Australia, has worked extensively for Nottinghamshire County Council running Nottingham Playhouse Roundabout, Chief Executive of Year of the Artist, and Head of Education for Birmingham Rep Theatre.

He has served on many committees including: Founding member SCYPT (Standing Conference of Young Peoples Theatre) and in 1985 was General Secretary of SCYPT, Greater London Arts – Drama Panel, was elected to be 1987-89 World Treasurer ASSITEJ of World Executive of ASSITEJ, Member of ACA (Action for Children’s Arts) NCA (National Campaign), former Member East Midlands Regional Cultural Consortium, and the Regional Council for Arts Council England East Midlands 2001-2006.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN-The Road to Tin Soldier…David Johnston March 2012

As we sit here in 2012, with our new production, A Thousand Slimy Things-The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, in preparation for its Manchester Production in May 2012, and while we are planning out literacy workshops for schools and centres, kindly funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, it seems sensible to reflect on where this work came from.

 Noel Greig’s final play, and our co-production with London’s Unicorn Theatre, has  won the award for Best Play for Young People 2011 in London’s Off-West End “Offies” Awards,in February 2012, a remarkable achievement for a play with no subsidy and with only 10 days rehearsal time.

Tin Soldier was Noel Greig’s last play, written shortly before his sad death in September 2009. It completes a trilogy of plays written for the Theatre Company, Tangere Arts, of which I am a founding member and current director. This is an attempt to describe the play briefly, within the context of the other two, as well as to describe, however briefly and inadequately, my working relationship with Noel, as a colleague and friend, since 1986, when I first had the privilege to work with him.

Tin Soldier, like the two plays that preceded it, is essentially written as a 20 minute epic poem, based on a well known fairy tale or folk story, which attempts to stay true to the original in most ways, yet, at the same time, explore some of the hidden meanings that may have lain underneath this ancient art, and reveal them in an innovative, sometimes provocative, frequently funny and entertaining, and always truthful manner.

It closely follows the original Hans Andersen tale, one of his lesser known, and certainly darker pieces, though undoubtedly the (unacknowledged) inspiration for Pixar’s “Toy Story” saga, without the obligatory Hollywood happy ending-(though I haven’t seen the last one, and I gather it’s a little different.)

It tells the story of the unwanted one-legged tin toy, who spends his time staring silently at the lovely paper dancer, who seems to fulfil his every need, in his mind at least-only to fall out of the nursery window and be carried on a series of exciting and frightening adventures, abused by street urchins, menaced by a giant rat, lost in a paper boat in a storm, swallowed by a giant fish, caught by fisherman, and finally returned to the nursery, as part of a meal of cooked fish, whereupon he is carelessly thrown into a blazing fire by an unthinking child, and perishes, his only consolation being that the paper dancer joins him in a mutual consummation, or should it be conflagration? Yet steadfast he remains throughout, steadfast, silent and brave.

Put simply like that, one might wonder what all the fuss was about- but Noel was very clear in his belief that the story had enormous significance for Andersen, and spoke greatly about his hidden meanings as expressed simply in that short story.

Andersen’s latent homosexuality and his difficulties in forming relationships with both men and women were for Noel key to the reading of this piece. He felt strongly that Andersen was trying to tell his readers something about himself, and the dangers of unrequited love, the pain of being “steadfast and true”, the seeming pointlessness of it all, life, love and longing, all leading to a rollercoaster of a journey, with perils and dangers, and a hope for salvation, which is so often dashed in the flames of disappointment….or something like that.

Noel and Hans are no longer around to give us more details, and the consequence is that, as usual, we must make our own minds up and take what we get individually, as children will and do.

It is certainly, as always with Noel, beautifully written, very poignant, moving and rather sad, especially in the context of the real world currently. The ability of our current society to throw away objects of great value, to reject people and other creations in a superficial and careless way, cannot have been far from Noels mind, as he wrote this piece. You must judge for yourself. I certainly hope that you enjoy this and any other productions by ourselves, featuring Noels work, and that they make you want to go back to his written word again and again.

It is difficult to describe the creation of Tin Soldier, without referring in some detail to the two plays which preceded it, Hood in the Wood, and A Tasty Tale- (the true story of Hansel and Gretel).

Hood was first commissioned by myself on behalf of Nottingham Playhouse Roundabout in1992, as a fourhanded play with three actors playing Little Red, her mother/grandmother, the wolf, and a narrator/ percussionist. It was designed and directed by Bill Mitchell probably the country’s foremost minimalist designer, formerly of Perspectives and Theatre Centre repute, and now designer of Cornwall’s excellent Kneehigh, and director of the excellent Wild works team. It was toured to Nottinghamshire schools with great success, performing to 7-11 year olds and very well received

When Ava Hunt and myself started the Tangere Arts project in 2003, with a commitment to Theatre in Education and small scale /minimalist theatre for children and communities in the East Midlands, it seemed a natural piece to re-visit. In light of the limited funding available to creating theatre, Ava had been working on a one-person show based on Dr Suess’s poem “The Lorax”, and so began a journey to develop an in-house-style of one person shows.  I had always suspected that the inner strengths of the writing might best be revealed through a one person performance.  It was at this point we invited the excellent performance Gary Lagden to join us, who had previously worked with Noel on several other projects, and who shared a strong respect both for Noel and his work, it seemed a natural project to propose.

Noel took to the project immediately, the more delighted as a result of his enormous respect for Gary’s work, and in summer 2005 we rapidly produced a workshop version for local schools, which was again very successful, and immediately employed Lewis Gibson, with whom we had worked several times at Roundabout, and whose highly skilled, and very quirky, musical talents, we all greatly admired, to supply a recorded soundtrack.

The pilot version of the piece with Gary and myself and recorded cues, was successful, but clearly could have benefited from live music and a live musician, so when Lewis became available , we brought him in as that musician ,playing his own excellent violin , but also adding a range of unusual instruments, creating all kinds of extraordinary sounds.

We had always intended to add music to this version, to replace the percussion of the first production, and were delighted when Lewis could join us on what eventually became a long and fascinating journey, one which continues to this day.

We also managed to persuade Lewis to leave the traditional “musicians corner” and move into the space, and be part of the action, partly to fill the space, partly to move him across the triangular space that we had created for the performances, and mainly because “it seemed like a good idea at the time”

This took the piece to another level, with the music and the musician not only creating a soundtrack for the poetry of Noels words and Gary’s highly physical performance style, but fully integrating and interweaving the music and the musician into the story and the production, to the extent that the climax of the “killing of the wolf” now always feels to me to be totally two –handed.

Originally we planned to tour the piece around East Midlands schools, courtesy of the Arts Council and an award under their Grants for the Arts scheme, and then move on to our next project. However Noel’s health was already beginning to deteriorate by then, so we decided to take the piece to wherever he was, and perform it as a little showcase for Noel and an invited group of friends, theatre colleagues and their families and children of their friends. This ultimately took place in London, courtesy of R.A.D.A., and a very good time was had by all.

After the R.A.D.A, performance a number of London-based colleagues told us that the piece was one of the best pieces of children’s Theatre they had seen in years, and that we really should “bring it to London” for a run. To cut a long story short, this led to a 4 week run at London’s Unicorn Theatre, an invitation to the annual “Take Off” international festival, national touring to theatres and centres, village halls, and 2 residencies at Manchester’s Royal Exchange studio for their Christmas programme.

Over the next two years, in conjunction with our other work, and alongside the second play in the trilogy, we continued to perform, in Denmark at two festivals, in Russia at two festivals, in Scotland at the Imaginate International festival and at the Aberdeen Storytelling festival, in Wales at the Agor Drysau international festival. As I write now in September 2010, we are still planning future tours of “Hood”, with Ireland and the Far East, and possibly North America, seeming to offer the next opportunities

Who would have thought that an informal Saturday afternoon in R.A.D.A could have offered such future pleasure for all concerned?

“Hood” is an extraordinary piece, still for me probably his best in this genre, telling the story very much from the point of view of Little Red, and very much as a “rites of Passage/feminist fable”, with a truly scary wolf, and a very bloody climax, loved by one and all, where Hood takes on the wolf, with no woodcutters in sight, and obliterates him brutally, only pausing to wrap his pelt around herself and move forward into womanhood!

Or that is how I have always read it –the beauty of Noel’s writing is that it allows the viewer/reader to make their own interpretations, find their own parallels, both within themselves and within the world around them. His writing is never ultimately didactic, or proscriptive.

Some of the writing in “Hood” is most beautiful and lyrical, touching, visceral and sometimes downright scary. The sequence where Hood first meets the wolf and ends up “riding on the wolfs back” in particular is certainly quite extraordinary.

There was a famous moment in our first visit to the Unicorn, when a visitor sat on the front row with a guide dog, which, being highly trained, attempted to attack Gary every time he became the wolf, such was the power and believability of the performance.

In 2007 A Tasty Tale followed the undoubted success of Tangere’s production of “Hood” in short succession, written by Noel, seemingly improving in health, and very much looking to work and travel not just around the country, not just with ourselves and other companies, such as Leicester Haymarket and Contact Theatre in Manchester, but internationally as well, where his excellent tutorial skills were in constant demand and highly valued.

Following the success of Hood, Noels buoyancy, and general enthusiasm from friends and funders alike, we asked Noel to write another piece in a similar vein, with a desire to increase Lewis’s involvement on the musical side from the outset

Another Arts Council grant was followed by exciting workshops in Brighton, mainly in a beautiful sea-front apartment, generously loaned by Noels close friend, David Fielder, long conversations on the beach, swimming in the sea, late night theatrical debates in several wine bars, and several very long writing workshops under Noels extremely serious, very formal and schoolmasterly eye.

This rapidly led to another script, base on the story of Hansel and Gretel, which fairly quickly went into production for a schools, Unicorn and Royal Exchange tour.

However, this was not anywhere near as straightforward as Hood had been. Whether we were all suffering from “Jaws 2” syndrome, or whether we were too ambitious, or simply because we went from the writing to the finished production too rapidly, without too much pause for reflection, we did not find this process very easy.

For a start, Noel had written a very different type of script, equally as poetic and interesting as Hood, but with the narrator being the duck who rescues the children at the end of the original story, reflecting on his adventures.

This meant a great deal of movement backwards and forwards in time and space in the narrative, and also that the story that we all know and love did not really get going for the first 15 minutes

It is difficult for a solo actor to create a world on his or her own peopled by a cast of 8 to 10 characters- though this has always been Gary’s genius- to be obliged in addition to take the audience backwards and forwards in time and space, especially if the narrator is not a major protagonist until the end of the traditional story, is an even greater challenge.

In addition we were creating the music and soundscape at the same time as the acting and character work, so as I say this was not an easy task

Ultimately the show went into schools, where it was well received, though the performers felt that it didn’t really connect nearly as much as Hood, and on to Manchester and the Unicorn, where Lewis’s music and excellent lighting techniques greatly added to the production.

It was extremely well received at both venues, with several friends and colleagues declared it superior to Hood (It received a 4 star review from Time Out), hugely enjoyed by young and old alike, but never totally satisfying to those of us who created it.

When the following year, illness returned and a clear terminal medical prognosis was made, Noel made the decision to write one last play. It would be Hans Andersen’s “Tin Soldier, and we all agreed that we would go back to the approach that had worked so well with Hood- a straight linear narrative, uncomplicated by time and space. We also decided that Lewis would direct the piece, and that the musical element would be developed further. Noël finished the script late in 2008, and we have been attempting to produce it ever since

-sadly he died before we could gain funding to produce it. He left us with that commitment, and that task.

All three plays have offered a fascinating, and frequently challenging journey for myself and the Tangere team, and the journey would not really make total sense to a reader unless I were permitted to describe them within the context of my personal and professional journey with both Noel himself and his writing over a longer period, one that for myself stretches back over 23 years-for other colleagues, actors, directors, producers and other friends much longer.

Looking Backwards and forward-1973 onwards

Hopefully some of those others will write of their experiences separately-but for me it has been 23 years in a career currently spanning 37 years (my first professional work being as a founder member of Key Perspectives (now New Perspectives) in Peterborough in 1973.

Most of our work there was devised and group directed, so my encounters with professional writers were limited, although I did notice that companies, like the renowned Coventry TIE group, who worked with writers, in their case the redoubtable David Holman, seemed to be producing the best quality of theatre around.

Following my exciting three years at Peterborough, I had moved to London in 1976, and was extremely fortunate at the tender age of 27 to be offered the post of here, I was able to move rapidly , thanks to an excellent team, including (the late)  Director of Theatre Centre, succeeding Brian Way, its founder in 1977. Once I was established there, we were able to move forward boldly, aided in no small way by (the late) Shaun Hennessy, followed by Patrick Boyd Maunsell, and two superb associates in Roger Watkins and Geoff Bullen from R.A.D.A.

At Theatre Centre we made considerable efforts to encourage new writing, encouraged greatly by the Arts Council, and started the careers of many young aspirants, eventually settling on David Holman as resident, over a period of 6 years This was a time of growth, experimentation and great excitement for us all

By 1983 Theatre Centre had established a reputation as not only the largest, but also the most innovative and politicised (small p) Theatre Company in the country, touring to schools, centres and small theatres. We had managed to blend the highly politicised content of the best T.I.E companies like Coventry and the early Cockpit T.I.E Company, with the undoubted theatrical strengths of the established Children’s Theatre Companies, and the burgeoning new wave of “alternative theatre”, which was sweeping across the country.

In 1983 we had created a number of “Peace Plays” mainly written by the excellent David Holman, which had not only been highly successful in schools, but had drawn us to the attention of the national Press, not least the Daily Mail and Daily Express, who described plays in schools with “ explosions and smoke billowing from the sets”-this couldn’t have been further from the truth-the plays thoughtfully examined the roots of conflict, and the effect of war on ordinary people,  especially David’s Peacemaker, which was later to become an international classic, Susumu’s Story about the families in Hiroshima, and 1983, a play about the, then, current fears with regard to American Cruise Missiles.

However the work brought us to the attention of the Home Secretary, Norman Tebbit, who roundly declared that parents should refuse to let their children go to our mini festival in his constituency , Waltham Forest, where we were part of a Peace Festival, organised by the (soon to be abolished)  GLC (Greater London Council).

His attempt failed, parents and teachers, and, to be fair, eventually, the media, supported our work, and from then on Theatre Centre could only go from strength to strength.

Or so it seemed.

By 1985 the company were established as a beacon of progressive theatre, and Theatre in Education not only for children in schools and centres, but with adults and communities across the country. We had established a Women’s Company, had encouraged a range of emerging Black and Asian artists, had started to link up with the emerging Disabled theatre movement through links with Graeae, and had found clear links with the rapidly emerging Gay and Feminist theatre makers , who were making distinct waves throughout the theatre and the whole community.

Excellent writers, such as Bryony Lavery, Nona Shepphard and Lisa Evans created stimulating new works for us, and we started to tour internationally. We were  keen to explore new challenges , and move forward as much as possible.

We had also joined with other TIE companies, most notably GYPT (Greenwich Young Peoples Theatre) in following and developing a range of other workshop techniques which would help young people unravel the increasingly hostile world around them, most notably expressed in the work of Augusto Boal in his seminal work “Theatre of the Oppressed” and through his techniques and whole approach to participation, which became known as Forum Theatre.  We worked briefly with Boal in Paris and, like GYPT started to create our own versions of his work.

Our desire was to bring together the best qualities that Theatre Centre had developed, neatly expressed by my colleague, Nona Shepphard, as “damn good plays”, with the best of liberation education, so well expressed by theorists such as Boal and Paolo Freire.

However, finding high class writers, who could blend the personal with the political continued to present problems for us, if the work was to continue at the highest level.

David Holman had moved on to create excellent work at the Young Vic theatre and internationally in Australia, and our feminist writers were in increasing demand at other companies.

It was round about that time when we heard of an exciting new play, that had been created by my old company, Perspectives, then based in Mansfield, a collective of artists now, and creating a range of new community plays written by writers from a distinctively working class and Gay perspective, and this new play “Best of Friends” and it’s writer, Noel Greig were highly recommended to us, both for the writing, the content, and the  somewhat controversial nature of the content (Hidden History of “coming out” as a gay man).

It has to be remembered that this time was the height of Thatcherism, and the notorious Clause 28 (legislation that prevented schools advocating that gay relationships were to be portrayed as “normal” as this would be interpreted as promoting homosexuality to children and young people) was now in full flow throughout the education system, causing havoc within the Gay community, and severe personal difficulties for many of us, as, alongside it,  the Aids epidemic decimated large numbers of colleagues and friends.

It was a difficult time to create new work, and new writing had to be of the highest quality to avoid censorship. Some T.I.E. companies were becoming overtly political in their approach to the work, in fact several at this time saw the work as some kind of vanguard for a Trotskyite revolutionary movement, a spirit with which we had some sympathy, as long as the quality of their work could match the passion of their politics. Sadly this often was not the case, and some companies found themselves in direct conflict with funders, local and national , as well as politicians, and sadly the aesthetic of the work became unusefully confused frequently with its content.

Theatre Centre did not go down this route.

Our approach had always been, and continued to be, to work within the system, while challenging every aspect of it, as we continued our development. Noel Greig’s arrival at Theatre Centre assisted this aim considerably.

Noels first play for Theatre Centre was entitled “Laughter from the Other Side”.  Produced for 9-13 year olds, an age group, which Noel seemed to understand better than any other writer I have worked with, with the possible exception of David Holman, the play dealt with issues around race, colonialism, sexuality  all within 60 minutes, utilising song, poetry and the spoken word so beautifully, that no-one ever thought to mention that the piece was essentially about a young man “coming out” in front of 10 year olds. It was a great success, and was produced again within a year of the first production at international festivals.

Libby Mason took over the reins of Theatre Centre in 1987, and took the company on to its next stage of development for several years, went on to employ Noel as a writer of plays several times, and perhaps more importantly, as company Dramaturg, where, over a period of years he managed to inspire a number of young aspirant writers, many young, Black or Asian, and some, such as Roy Williams, who have gone on to gain considerable recognition for their writing. This continued with Rosamunde Hutt, who succeeded Libby as director.

After 4 years as a freelancer, I was fortunate to be given the post of Director of Professional Theatre and Training in Nottinghamshire in 1981 by Nottingham Playhouse and the County Council-this post involved managing Nottingham Playhouse’s excellent Roundabout T.I.E, company, as well as planning a new college of Performing Arts for the County, a unique partnership, and an exciting model of partnership, which was very much due to the vision of Ruth Mackenzie at Nottingham Playhouse, and Fred Riddell, the highly committed chair of the County Education Committee.

Within a short space of time I had employed Noel as a writing tutor, as a writer in schools to encourage children’s writers, and ultimately as the writer of the first version of Hood in the Wood. He also worked on an extraordinary piece of Theatre for Drug and Drink awareness education, ”Another Saturday” and created the first main stage musical for disabled and non-disabled actors, in collaboration with Graeae Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse Roundabout, called Alice, and based on the Lewis Carroll story.

In 1997, when the break up of Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City into two separate unitary authorities occurred, an unfortunate casualty was the break up of the partnership between Nottingham Playhouse, the City, and The County, which basically meant that my post no longer would exist under the new structure.

During this period I worked as national director of the “Year of the Artist 2000” funded and managed nationally  by the Regional Arts Associations-during this period I also kept in touch with Noel, but we  never worked together. He was, as always, busy and diligent elsewhere.

Tangere Arts

When Year of the Artist was completed, and after a period of free-lancing, and developing new work in the East Midlands, myself and partner Ava Hunt formed Tangere Arts in 2003, in order to create new work, especially with a minimalistic approach, and in order to develop further our commitment to Theatre in Education in the East Midlands

-we were very shortly afterwards joined by Gary Lagden, a good friend and a superb actor who had worked with us over several years in the Nottingham team, and later by Sally Siner, a highly talented young performer and writer, who is still working with us today.

In our initial two years, thanks mainly to funding from Arts Council England, local authorities, Sport England, and a number of helpful Trusts and Foundations, we were able to create a body of Theatre in Education and Children’s Theatre projects which clearly established the company as an emerging force to be recognised in the East Midlands region. We have been creating a range of new work ever since.

The two main strands of work have been in the area of Theatre in Health Education, an area of work that was being neglected regionally, and in high quality Children’s Theatre.

Hood in the Wood, A Tasty Tale, and Tin Soldier, are only part of the repertoire of our company, alongside a range of projects on Bullying, Crime Awareness, and especially Drink and Drugs Awareness projects, creating a range of highly successful plays and performance workshops, mainly for teenagers, using the same skills, minimalism, empathy, contradiction and provocation with thoughtfulness, that we seek in our work with Noel Greig and other writers.

 

Projects led by Ava Hunt have included

A beautiful version of Dr Seuss’ poem-The Lorax, designed and directed by Bill Mitchell

A performance & workshop piece looking at bullying and transition from Primary to Secondary School called “Moving on Up” which toured schools annually from 2003 to 2010

a fun full-mask piece for young audiences directed by ex-Treslte Rachael Savage called Face 2 Face, which completed to sold out tours 2005/6.

a highly regarded version of DH Laurence’s The Fox adapted by the excellent Stephen Lowe, and directed by Maggie Ford,

I Feel like Dancing, a hugely entertaining Afican Caribbean Storytelling Piece by Ansell Broderick

I’m No Hero-a searing examination of the Holocaust and the modern Israeli/Palestinian situation, devised by Ava, Maggie Ford and film-maker Roger Knott-Fayle, attracting 4 & 5 star reviews at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival.

However that work, and all our Children’s Theatre work is now greatly threatened, with considerably less funding available in recent years owing to the recession, and now compounded by cuts in the public sector, which may see all previous sources of funding reduced or completely withdrawn, owing to cutbacks and reductions.

Even before recent Government elections and austerity plans, Health and local authority funding was being greatly reduced, as were project funds for Children’s Theatre and Theatre in Education at the Arts Council.

“Hood in the Wood” and “Tasty Tale” were both initiated by funding from Arts Council England under the Grants for the Arts scheme – “Tin Soldier” has not been so lucky.

Bids to fund the project were twice turned down by Arts Council England, on the grounds of insufficient funds, the second time only a week before Noels death, and a further bid earlier in 2010 failed on similar grounds.

It is difficult to see how the company can continue this work without some future support, even a small sum such as the £25,000 which was our last request.

As I write this, the country’s arts community, and indeed the rest of the country, especially the public sector, are awaiting a range of government funding cuts, which are expected to be truly Draconian. Many expect those cuts will take us back to the bad old days of Thatcher’s 1980s,or even the 1950s and early 1960s, when theatre for children was not even recognised as an art form, and no public funding was available at all.

Personally I believe that, now as then, when the Children’s Theatre pioneers, Brian Way and Caryl Jenner created Theatre Centre and the Unicorn in the 1950s, and when the T.I.E pioneers broke away from the repertory movement in the 1960s, and when the alternative theatre movement flourished in the 1970s and 1980s, those problems will also offer opportunities.

Much of the quality theatre we see today owes its roots to those pioneers, creating work with no subsidy in schools, in small arts centres, on the London and Edinburgh fringes, and, if the funding bodies can at last “grasp the nettle”-and it will certainly sting for a little while -we can look forward to a future where quality, commitment, and a true sense of innovation, allied to a healthy questioning of social norms,  can again be rewarded in all aspects of art, and especially in theatre, and especially in theatre for the young.

As Noel tells us in the Tin Soldier:-

“Sometimes a song is better than a tear

Sometimes a song can rescue us from fear

Or keep the monsters of the night at bay

Or turn the dark into the light of day

And so it is

Right now”

And so we march onwards with a song in our hearts, like Noel and his Tin Soldier, (steadfast and true”-Albeit frequently in one-legged fashion) -and the value of our work to our audiences, the support of colleagues and friends, especially friends of Noel, is extremely fortifying.

This has been especially true recently, when we had enormous help in putting together both the production of Tin Soldier ,and the published version of the trilogy of plays, thanks to Cheryl Robson and Aurora Press. We are grateful to all colleagues, and especially Noel’s dear friend, Philip Osment, and Noel’s Executors, Kully Thiarai, and Angela McSherry.

It is only through the good grace of other companies, especially our co-producers, The Unicorn, also Manchester Royal Exchange, and The Take Off festival and others, finding fees towards funding the first production of Tin Soldier, that it has been able to take place at all. We are truly grateful, as we know the young audiences who see the play will also be grateful.

So, onwards and hopefully upwards we go, and I have a feeling that Noel is somewhere up there smiling, as we dance along our merry way, because, for sure, if there is one thing that he did not lack, it was a sense of humour.

So finally-What was so special about Noel Greig and his writing for children, young people and families?

  • Sheer poetical skill, and great facility with language
  • Passion
  • Humour
  • A deep understanding of the human condition, and how best to explore and reveal it in all its facets, both personally, emotionally, and politically.

Above all, a deep compassion for his fellow humans, which springs off the page, and will continue to enter our hearts, and sometimes take our breath away.

David Johnston October 2012

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