'Celebration of difference' - Disability puppet show comes to Ipswich

'What Happened to You?' will come to the New Wolsey Theatre on Wednesday, April 20.

'What Happened to You?' will come to the New Wolsey Theatre on Wednesday, April 20. The show explores and celebrates disability in a way that is both confronting and humorous. - Credit: Doug Southall / Edward Vickers

A show exploring what it means to be disabled through puppetry is coming to the New Wolsey Theatre this month. 

‘What Happened to You?’ follows three raggedy puppets, Little Red, Noodles and Bo, as they try to get through the day ahead of them. 

“The story was devised semi-autobiographically by the cast,” explained designer and director, Nikki Charlesworth, 27. 

“Each puppet has their own barrier to overcome. The barrier is to do with their environment, and the accessibility of their environment, whether that's physically or from the attitudes of the people around them.” 

The show is suitable for children over the age of five, but Nikki says that there will be plenty for adults to take away from it, as they have aimed to make the show “confronting, but in a humorous way.” 

"We wanted to be critical, confronting the things that we encountered when we were children,” said Nikki. 

“For example, when Noodles falls out with his mum, she says things that are hurtful, like ‘Why can’t you be more normal?’ 

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“I also wanted to confront the link that's always placed between disability and charity.  

“I was very aware that non-disabled children in the audience will have probably only ever encountered disability in relation to something like ‘Children in Need’.”  

As a child, this is the only time Nikki can remember seeing herself represented in the media. 

“I wanted to create a narrative that countered that, and for it to be a celebration of difference.” 

“The puppets wear the kind of orthotics and shoes that we, the cast, wore when we were younger, and they’re made to walk and move in the same way. 

“We really wanted to celebrate a different way of moving.” 

The show also incorporates the deaf perspective, with deaf actress Mia Ward translating the show into BSL. There will also be an audio description. 

The other two performers are Bryony McCombie Smith and Robyn Olivia. 

‘What Happened to You?’ will be performed on Wednesday, April 20. Beforehand, Nikki is offering a puppeteering masterclass, with tips and tricks on ‘thinking like a puppeteer.’