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Red Rose Chain's multi-sensory play brings Suffolk myth to life.

PUBLISHED: 10:08 25 April 2015 | UPDATED: 10:08 25 April 2015

The Red Rose Chain rehearse The Green Children, a new multi-sensory play for young people with complex or multiple difficulties. Photos: Simon Parker

The Red Rose Chain rehearse The Green Children, a new multi-sensory play for young people with complex or multiple difficulties. Photos: Simon Parker

We should celebrate our differences, that's the message behind Red Rose Chain's new multi-sensory show The Green Children.

The Red Rose Chain rehearse The Green Children, a new multi-sensory play for young people with complex or multiple difficulties. Photos: Simon ParkerThe Red Rose Chain rehearse The Green Children, a new multi-sensory play for young people with complex or multiple difficulties. Photos: Simon Parker

Aimed at 13-21 year-olds with disabilities or complex and multiple difficulties, it’s a coming of age story based on the famous Suffolk myth The Green Children of Woolpit. Two children are found on the edge of Woolpit Wood. Who are they, where did they come from, why don’t they speak a language anybody understands and why are they green?

“They meet a grandfather and his grandaughter who takes them in and tries to integrate them into society. He’s lost his sense of fun, he doesn’t laugh anymore and the green children re-introduce that playful side so they learn from each other,” explains director Kirsty Thorpe, who adapted the tale with Red Rose Chain’s associate director Laura Norman.

“We’ve taken this story because it has brilliant themes (in terms of) difference, integration, communication, acceptance. Our story is a total celebration of difference.”

The Ipswich-based company, which recently opened its own theatre, The Avenue, in Gippeswyk Avenue, does a lot of work with youngsters with disabilities. It’s something Thorpe is looking expand.

The Red Rose Chain rehearse The Green Children, a new multi-sensory play for young people with complex or multiple difficulties. Photos: Simon ParkerThe Red Rose Chain rehearse The Green Children, a new multi-sensory play for young people with complex or multiple difficulties. Photos: Simon Parker

“The audience for this is young people with very complex needs. People who have no physical movement or limited communication skills. Being a multi-sensory show enables us to stimulate them all.”

The floor of the theatre has been converted to grass, tree branches hang from the ceiling, the light changes. You feel like you’re walking into a wood and garden, with different smells like pine mixed with lavender, lemon-scented washing up liquid and even rain pumped into the space.

“We thought it was really important to build-in all those senses,” says Thorpe, adding they were very lucky to work with special schools across Ipswich and Cambridge and the company’s own supported youth theatre.

“We took the original myth into schools to see what the young people thought about it, developing it with them. Even the grass, I got lots of different samples, took them in and asked which one was the best for the set floor. I thought that was really important. They can come into this environment and have ownership of it before they’ve even seen it. They’re all coming to see the show as well, which is really exciting as they get to see what they’ve fed into it.”

The other challenge facing the team and it’s four-member cast was not only making the show suitable for the vast spectrum of special needs but also something dad or maybe a brother or sister wants to see. Catering for teenagers, it also had to be cool.

“Even the music we’ve used... We took it into schools and said ‘what do you think of this track’? What we’ve ended up with is a really cool soundtrack and then mixed in with a lot of sound recording. We went out and recorded dawn chorus in Suffolk so even the birdsong you hear is local.

“There’s nothing kiddish about the show. We’ve said it’s for teenagers but we’ve got people booked who are a lot younger and a lot older. I’ve had a lot of adults ‘saying can’t I come’? Of course you can it’s a complete fairy tale.”

Tickets are still available for today’s public shows at noon, 2pm and 6pm. The show, funded by Arts Council England and East of England Co-op, then transfers to Cambridge Junction for two days.

“Red Rose Chain is very well known for its community work and our inclusive theatre. I want us to become a destination that has an offering for young people with 
disabilities and additional needs. It’s The Avenue’s opening season and this multi-sensory work is there, I think that’s something to be very proud of,” added Thorpe.

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