Pupils' pandemic worries and wishes worked into puppet show

The Wishing Tree

The Wishing Tree - Credit: Ellie Kurttz

When Little Angel Theatre's The Wishing Tree opens next week after a month delay it will be the culmination of a collaboration between Islington pupils and playwright Joseph Coelho.

The puppet show was due to run outdoors as part of the summer picnic season at Islington Square, but as director Oliver Hymans explains: "Everything was ready, we had day one of full rehearsal and the next day I tested positive for Covid, putting the whole company in isolation. Thankfully everyone was still available for the postponed dates and it's all going to plan."

The show, which now runs September 9-26, started with six artists designing a tree - a horse chestnut, a mango, an orange tree - and taking them into schools and community groups to run workshops.

"They were used to get young people to open up about some of the challenges we have all faced in the last 18 months and to think about the future and a post pandemic world," adds Hymans. "They hung a wish and a worry on the tree which were all sent to Joseph to put into a long form poem/play. Lots of things in the show have come from their ideas. Fundamental to the story is the strong image of a tree in the middle of the estate which the children love to play on, but is cut down leaving a gaping hole in the ground."

Hero Ben meets a parrot who lays on a mango feast in The Wishing Tree

Hero Ben meets a parrot who lays on a mango feast in The Wishing Tree - Credit: Courtesy of Little Angel Theatre

Set on the imaginary Laurel Estate, nine year old Ben is sent on a journey by The Green Child to find the felled Wishing Tree. Along the way he meets a rapping Hercules beetle, eats a mango feast laid on by a parrot, meets an oak tree who hears all the worries of the children on the estate, and is challenged to a game of conkers by a playful tree sprite.

The Green Child puppet for The Wishing Tree

The Green Child puppet for The Wishing Tree - Credit: Courtesy of Little Angel Theatre

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"The children were missing family members, worrying about litter or the extinction of polar bears, but there were also a lot positive and beautiful messages and hope for the future, which goes deep into this journey. Ultimately Ben realises The Tree of Wishes is inside him and he needs to be more hopeful."

Aimed at ages 5-11, The Wishing Tree features original music and Hymans hopes that pupils and their families from the schools who took part "can come and see and spot their stories."

The Wishing Tree

One of the trees which were used to hang chidren's worries and wishes on for The Wishing Tree - Credit: Ellie Kurttz

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As for his own wish for the future he says: "I am in a room with a whole company rehearsing and keeping distanced and following rules. It's fantastic to get a taste again of how we used to work and I'm excited to see the feedback for this unusual story co-written by young people." 


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