Like many parents reading that same bedtime story for the sixth time in a row my mind occasionally wanders, and being a theatre-maker it often wanders into theatre-making territory. Of course it's hard to ever get bored of Rob Biddulph's gorgeous work but ever so easy to slip into a parallel world where the characters come into all singing, all dancing acrobatic life! Which is exactly what happened two years ago when I first read Blown Away to my two little boys. So with Rob's blessing we began to explore how to adapt the piece for the stage. The playful sing song verse of the original cries out to be sung so filling the show with songs was an obvious first step. But when you look further at the lovely illustrations you'll notice (if you're of a circusy persuasion) that Rob has already drawn many of the characters in existing acrobatic positions - notably two-highs and three-highs (when performers stand on each other's shoulders - a frequent physical trope of the show).
At a deeper level the use of circus also lets us dig into some of the deeper themes of the story - trust and a friendship that is borne out of sharing a physical adventure together. Circus is always a great art form to make manifest themes of trust - it literally cannot exist without it. There is no greater pleasure than being close enough to the action to see the trust in the performer's eyes as they throw and catch eachother with grace and ease. Thus far we had been very faithful to this relatively simple tale of friendship and adventure - even maintaining the aesthetic of the slightly 'bobbly' illustration through knitted costumes, props and puppets (which add a satisfying sense of the Antarctic temperatures). But being a Metta show (there are always multiple layers of storytelling) we wanted to take the characters further in terms of their backstories and their emotional as well as physical journies. And so we took a little artistic license and developed the characters further - so Penguin Blue became a penguin who had always wanted to fly (something real Penguins cannot do) but instead had spent her life following 'colony rules' and keeping her feet on the ground. Meanwhile Wilma (Wilbur in the original - always up for a bit of gender parity in casting) became an over anxious seal, keen to travel, but afraid to leave the familiar surroundings of her ice hole, and Clive the polar bear just wants a friend - it's lonely being a polar bear - especially if you try to eat your friends.
Now here we are two years later and the show is finished and ready to take flight - the props are knitted, the harmonies polished and the circus tricks drilled into the performers bodies. Join us for the ride... it's a lot of fun.