Bundles of brightly coloured clothing, rolls of patterned fabrics, vibrant bunting and sequined umbrellas transformed The Drum this week, as Stuff and Nonsense returned to the Theatre Royal Plymouth with a brand new take on the classic tale, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. A family favourite filled with endless amounts of fun this production; adapted and directed by Niki McCretton, presents an energetic, reimagining of a children’s classic cleverly told by Jenny Harrold and Toby Gascoigne through puppetry and song.
We were invited along this week as part of the TRP Bloggers Scheme to attend the show which was filled with entertainment from start to finish. We were able to meet both Jenny and Toby who kindly offered to tell us a little more about the story behind this particular show and how everything ranging from the plot itself to the staging was created. Designed especially with the audience in mind, the entire production took a little over a year to devise. The whole process saw the company performing in front of a variety of different age groups finding out what worked best for the overall story. Even now the performance is always changing or adapting depending on the space in which it’s performed.
Both Toby and Jenny along with their director Niki wanted the show to be interactive, where the audience could feel a part of the performance, joining in at key moments to build excitement.Such as the parade where we assumed the roles of the crowd which created an atmosphere of celebration, something which the cast agreed has become a favourite part of the production.
Told in a storybook fashion, a simple wardrobe; which took centre stage, was converted into a palace as patterned fabrics were constructed into towers, umbrellas into roofs and decorative lamps into streetlights. Designed by Edwina Bridgeman the staging was truly inventive with each prop and individual piece of set having multiple uses as little doors and archways appeared throughout the duration of the show. The sets first take had a completely different design in comparison to its current look with a collection of miniature buildings lining either side of the stage.
It was fascinating to learn that the set had actually been fashioned out of numerous pieces of furniture or props which were purely for rehearsal purposes such as the wardrobe which eventually became a central component to the entire performance.Constructing parts of the set throughout the show fit perfectly, matching the narrative of the performance making the set as much a part of the story as the characters.
The entire show was truly imaginative, the puppets; inspired by ‘The Muppets’ and designed by Holly Miller, were so much fun and incredibly detailed. The costumes were simple yet vibrant, with each individual puppet having its own style adding to the productions animated quality. Miniature puppets although dressed the same had subtle differences which differentiated the characters such as a small pair of glasses and a variety of hats. A definite highlight was having the chance to have a closer look and learning a little about the technical side of the performance was completely new and very interesting as we were able to see how puppetry had been incorporated into the show.
Overall, the entire experience was wonderful. Designed for the whole family this performance lets your imagination lead the way, as Stuff and Nonsense present an entirely new look into a well-known tale.