Our very own wonderful Laura has written an awesome blog post that chronicles the journey of Soapy Sam, from the initial ideas, all the way to the way the production stands at the moment. It’s been one wild journey, and we are looking forward to where it will take us next! This week, Sam is going to be in Brighton – there are still tickets if you want to join him, more information is at the bottom of the post.
Handprint HQ is always pretty busy, but it seems at the moment we have really surpassed ourselves with a manic summer of exciting events, festivals and projects!
Soapy Sam is back in development, and with some tweaks and adjustments and plenty more bubbles it is really exciting to be back on the road, this time heading to the seaside.
Soapy Sam has been one of our longest running projects, and his journey is something that we have definitely learnt from, and hope it will continue and children across the country fall in love with our little puppet.
Initially started in 2010, we decided to venture to the Camden Fringe with a children’s show, where we could explore signing with puppetry and include a younger audience (previously our work had not been suitable for children!). A memorable email was the moment when we suddenly thought ‘what if a boy got sucked down the plug hole?’. This was our starting point, and the possibilities seemed endless, yet impossible!
But how to start the show when the company was living across the country was interesting!
With many emails and rehearsals, including commuting between Reading and London, and finding any space possible to build puppets and get messy with bubbles…it was not the easiest of processes. The original cast of myself (Laura), Marian Hoddy, and Megan Pennyfather tried many different story ideas, looking at what would happen if a small boy got sucked down the plughole.
As with many Fringe festivals with hundreds of shows, and unknown companies, it was a real struggle to get audience; and sometimes very disheartening. But we all agreed at the end of the run that Soapy Sam had far more potential!
In 2011 we began a Creative Partnership with a school in Slough, where we were asked to work with Yr 1’s on a puppetry project. Soapy Sam was desperate to jump off Marian’s shelf, and so we knew this could be the perfect way to redevelop the story – with children. So we welcomed Lucy O’Keeffe into the team and set about how the show could work in a 6 week school schedule, inspiring the children to make their own puppets and also to develop the story with their fantastic ideas.
Getting to Slough for 9am from London was a lot of early starts, but working with the children was an eye-opening process. Performing sections of the story and asking the children to tell the next part led to monster parties, scary slime and crazy creatures.
One pupil asked us, ‘Why is there only one picture of Soapy Sam online?’ – he was 7 (!!). We knew that Soapy Sam had a lot more adventures waiting to take place, and we needed more pictures online!
A complete story change, meant that Soapy Sam’s adventure was a whole new show, and we were excited to tell the new story.
The Little Chill festival in London provided a great opportunity to tell this new story in a slightly windy and very wet tent! Another cast change meant the show was a very new experience, and we added a participatory workshop after where the audience could make their own puppets like the children in Slough had done previously. More and more characters were building, and although this was a particularly wet performance, Soapy Sam still had a long way to go!
Sam next went international! Journeying on the ferry across to Guernsey, he charmed the Island, performing to many Deaf families, and even got in the local paper.
In November 2011 we were lucky enough to visit The Bike Shed Theatre in Devon. 3 days of Soapy Sam provided the first theatre experience for some tiny audience members, and was enthusiastically received. The performance had been accompanied by a shadow puppetry making workshop at the Exeter Central Library, which encouraged children to really get creative! We were also able to visit some local schools where they were able to not just watch, but also experience the show in an interactive workshop. Classes of children were sucked down the pipes, journeyed through the slime…but back in class in time for lunch!
The Exeter Royal Academy of Deaf Education brought a group of young people to The Bike Shed, where they were able to do a workshop on the stage, explore the ‘pipes’, meet the puppets, and then see the show. It was an exciting day and a great experience for young people to be working in the professional theatre.
Soapy Sam was tired, but did not stop exploring there, in fact he came back to London for a 3 weekend run at the Warehouse Theatre in Croydon. Once again, some reshaping, new direction and polishing up his adventure was set up and full of bubbles! Supported by the NDCS, we were able to provide puppet making workshop in the theatre after the show, where we met some exciting new characters, and were given many more ideas for his adventures.
We even had the first ever Soapy Sam birthday party, where an excited group of party-goers saw the show and then had a very tasty Soapy Sam birthday cake and of course met our famous friend!
We also worked with illustrator Alex Bennett, in developing the Soapy Sam children’s book which is currently on sale for £4, so families can take the story home to read together again and again, including lots of gruesome things to look out for down the pipes.
Many school teachers have contacted us and bought the book and told us it has become a class favourite – but what will he do next?
Since Croydon, Soapy Sam has been doing one off performances at various family events, including in Reading for the NDCS Family Day, and the Harrow Family Deaf day. Children (and parents!) were able to see the show in a beautiful cabin and then make some fantastic puppets, and told us exactly what would happen to Sam.
2013 has so far been a restful time for Soapy Sam, although he will be back in action for the Brighton Fringe. It is our first visit to Brighton, and we are really excited to be working with the Brighton and Hove Junior School who will be playing host to the performance. The pupils will be able to explore the pipes during the day, and then at 5pm we have a public performance where all are welcome to see the latest version of Sam’s adventures.
It is fascinating to recall the journey that the show has been on, the changing cast members, and different directors. All have contributed so much, but no one could ever give as much enthusiasm and passion for the puppet than the children in the audience. It is great to see how many children continue to care, and help Sam through his adventures, and we can not wait to meet his new friends in Brighton.
5pm, 22 May 2013, Brighton and Hove Junior School, Tickets £4 Children (£5 adult) Book online at www.brightonfringe.org.uk
Any teachers or organisations who would like a visit from Soapy Sam do get in touch.
(Photo taken in Brighton, yesterday, publicising Soapy Sam – it involved lots of BUBBLES, shower caps, Soapy Sam stickers, and flyers…and a whole bunch of fun!)