Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

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Rebecca
O'Brien
The Adventures of Bo Peep

Counting sheep always sends Bo Peep off to sleep by bedtime, but with no sign of them yet she'll be up all night searching. Bo Peep needs your help to save her little lambkins from danger! 'Audiences will be wowed by Knuckle and Joint' (PublicReviews.com). A perfect theatre introduction for 2-6 year-olds with an interactive story and sensory learning. Look out for a flock of enchanting puppetry, singalongs and sheep-themed silliness.

Hi Rebecca, does it feel to be bringing The Adventures of Bo Peep to Assembly Festival this Summer?

This will be our second time performing at Edinburgh. We began making puppetry productions in 2014 for adults with a weird and wonderful puppet cabaret full of madcap puppet murder! We took our first show to Edinburgh in 2015 and we’re very excited to be hitting the Fringe again with puppetry but for a much, much younger audience. Since those early days, we've created giant tropical bird puppets for outdoor shows for families and we enjoyed that so much that we now make theatre for the silly and nonsensical seen in THE ADVENTURES OF BO PEEP!

You had an amazing run in London, what has it mean to you this get this type of enthusiastic response to your show?

Most young children may have experienced panto at Christmas or a show during the summer holidays but with theatres closed for 2 years, many children have missed out on live performance. We were so pleased with the audience turn out from our first national tour last year since COVID, we love to see audiences returning and especially welcoming a whole new generation of theatre goers!

Can you tell me a little bit about how The Adventures of Bo Peep came about, what was the inspiration behind this show?

We adapt familiar stories to be enjoyed in new ways, creating wonderfully visceral worlds through intelligent puppet design and innovative visual theatre for young audiences to relish. Bo Peep may have lost her sheep and found them again but what happened in-between?! Our shows are fun, passionate and gloriously silly. We’re based across South East London and Kent and are the resident company at Churchill Theatre (Trafalgar Entertainment). The Adventures of Bo Peep was born out of Knuckle and Joint’s and Churchill Theatre’s shared idea of providing a first theatre experience for young children. A theatre experience that provides little ones with the freedom to wriggle in their seats, interact with the puppets and access the arts at a young age and at an affordable ticket price.

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Can you tell me a little bit about the individual puppets been realised?

The Bo Peep puppet is heavily influenced by the Japanese puppetry, Bunraku. She is 2ft tall and operated by 2 puppeteers who can make her walk, run and leap across fields as she chases after her sheep! Her costume doesn't include the traditional skirt and bonnet as it would get in the way of her adventures and a pair of muddy dungarees and wellies were far more weather appropriate! The sheep puppets are made with real wool as children are welcome to pet them and they also have different scents to create a multi sensory experience of Bo Peep in the British countryside. We have 7 puppets and 5 shadow puppets in the show, each with their own whimsical personalities, such as our Sheepsaurus and Supersheep!

 

What have been some of the biggest challenges you faced creating such a unique children’s show?

Little Bo Peep is a well known character from a famous nursery rhyme rather than a story. We’ve woven the rhyme into a story with brand new characters, events and challenges for Bo Peep to overcome. Our own challenge is introducing a very young audience to the new farm ready appearance of Bo without the bonnet! With very young children we also have to be careful not to overwhelm them with larger than life characters only metres from them! So we have two warm and charming farmer characters in the show that guide the children on their first theatrical experience.

What have been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken away from creating this show?

That we really do love working with early years and creating theatre of puppetry, physical comedy and sensory elements just for them! We love being the first show or one of the first shows that a very young child has ever seen. Our mission is to ignite a positive relationship with the arts to inspire children to keep returning to the theatre.

Where did your passion for theatre and storytelling come from?

From very young! My parents had VHS tapes of Norman Wisdom and I would laugh my head off all day at his physical comedy skits. I was always involved in drama and theatre at school and I’d soak up as many stories as I could through books, films and plays. I was lucky enough to keep pursuing it all the way to University and started Knuckle and Joint as soon as I graduated with Co Founder, Peter Morton.

Since setting up Knuckle and Joint how much has your approach to the theatre and shows you create changed?

Since those early days of making cabaret puppetry for adults, we've created large puppets for outdoor shows for families such as our giant tropical birds in ‘Save the Lyma Birds!’. We enjoyed making theatre for children so much that we now make shows solely for 2 - 6 year olds.

"Its exciting to reach global audiences that you normally wouldnt be able to and its very inspiring meeting other artists that have travelled far and wide to get to Edinburgh."

Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer anyone wanting to get into theatre?

Google as many opportunities for youth theatre in your local area, or opportunities in the holidays even if it is on stage or backstage! Get in touch with your local theatre and see how you can get involved! Figure out what style of theatre and performance resonates with you the most by seeing as much as possible, if it’s hard to get to theatre then there are loads of filmed live performances online. There are plenty of areas of performance that you’ll have no clue about until take a dive into the industry. For example, I had no clue about Japanese style of puppetry, Bunraku, until I got to University and now it heavily influences all of my puppetry and shows!

What makes the Fringe so special?

For only 3 weeks we get to be a part of a festival of national and international theatre companies presenting their work to many different people from around the world! It’s exciting to reach global audiences that you normally wouldn’t be able to and it’s very inspiring meeting other artists that have travelled far and wide to get to Edinburgh. It’s a pulsing atmosphere of theatre and audiences that we’re thrilled to be apart of!

And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from The Adventures of Bo Peep?

We want audiences to love the world of Bo Peep, from the grass on stage, the greenery of the set and Bo Peep's warm and welcoming nature. We have beautiful shadow puppetry which is a lovely calming moment in the show and children love petting the sheep puppets!