Little Angel turns 60 with a year of celebration
- Credit: Ellie Kurttz
A ‘choose your own adventure’-style digital show and a live adaptation of Julia Donaldson's The Smartest Giant in Town are among the highlights of the Little Angel Theatre's 60th anniversary celebrations.
A digital series on the people behind six decades of trailblazing puppetry design and a string of 'magical trees' popping up across Islington are also planned for the first half of the venue's birthday season.
The iconic puppet theatre first opened its doors as a children's marionette theatre in a derelict temperance hall off Upper Street on November 24 1961. Under the leadership of South African puppeteer John Wright, for nearly 40 years the 90-seat venue was a family affair with wife Lyndie, daughter Sarah, and son Joe (Atonement and Darkest Hour director) helping out alongside a team of puppeteers.
Since 2000, Little Angel has been run by a charity that has created and toured acclaimed shows across the UK and abroad. It's now under the leadership of artistic director Samantha Lane and executive director Peta Swindall who said: "The new season kicks off with an adventure-style play for an adventurous year as we continue to find advanced and innovative ways to engage our audiences digitally with a new production of Sean Taylor and Neal Layton’s interactive story ‘Where the Bugaboo Lives’. Each performance will be different as young audiences ‘choose their own adventure’ while they watch, deciding which way the story goes. Following this, we cannot wait to welcome audiences back, as soon as it’s safe, to see our new production of Julia Donaldson’s much-loved story about helping others in need ‘The Smartest Giant in Town’ and we look forward to collaborating with Fierylight for the first time. We are also kicking off a new digital interview series ‘’People Behind the Puppets’ to celebrate 60 years of the world-class artistry at the heart of Little Angel. We hope it will inspire the next generation of puppet makers."
Inspired by a new Joseph Coelho poem 'The Wishing Tree' will see six artist-designed 'trees' appearing across Islington populated by puppets made by local children and exploring themes such as friendship, freedom and kindness. Passers-by will be able to watch as each tree grows and becomes more colourful over time. The project will culminate in a two-week festival of outdoor public performances in June.
"We hope to brighten up the streets of Islington with a special project," they added. "Our community is at the heart of everything we do and this is a wonderful chance to celebrate our birthday with them."
And the Little Angel's co-production with Great Ormond Street Hospital If Not Here..Where? will continue to tour hospitals and hospices as a digital production, transporting isolated children on hospital wards to a magical fantasy world.
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From the first lockdown, the Little Angel quickly adapted to offer a free series of more than 140 Watch, Make, Share videos - short digital plays and puppet making activities which have reached a global audience of 757,000 households in 90 countries.
"We have been overwhelmed by the response from children, local and far afield, to our free digital series created in response to lockdown," said Lane and Swindall.
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"We hope it has made a difficult time a bit brighter for our young audiences and are thrilled to be able to continue to create new digital shorts and activities for families to enjoy throughout the year to come."
Sean Taylor's Where the Bugaboo Lives is suitable for 5-11-year-olds and runs March 14 until May 2. The Smartest Giant in Town co-adapted with Barb Jungr runs from May 21 subject to government restrictions. Interviews with puppet makers including Toby Olie and Alison Alexander will be made available digitally from April 1.
Further details at https://littleangeltheatre.com/