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Theatre Hullabaloo Secures Arts Council Funding for Flagship Theatre for Children
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Theatre Hullabaloo Secures Arts Council Funding for Flagship Theatre for Children

01 July 2014

North East children and young people’s theatre company, Theatre Hullabaloo, is celebrating the news that it has been awarded capital investment of £1.5million from Arts Council England at Stage 1 of their capital investment programme, to realise its vision of a child-centred theatre development on a site adjacent to Darlington’s Civic Theatre. The £2.15million project, made possible by a commitment of £650,000 by Darlington Borough Council, will include a 150 seat studio theatre, family café, creative play spaces plus rehearsal and office space for the organisation. 

The development, opening in Autumn 2016, will see an artistic and operational partnership between Theatre Hullabaloo, Darlington Borough Council and Darlington’s Civic Theatre. The new theatre, known as The Hullaballoon, will offer a rich programme of performances, play installations, creative curriculum delivery and family-focussed activities which will have an emphasis on opportunities for younger children. 

The Hullaballoon will also be a hub for key partnerships with regional universities interested in developing child-centred research in practice, as well as being available for use by local community groups.

The announcement arrived alongside other positive news that Theatre Hullabaloo will retain its core funding and place within the Arts Council’s national portfolio of organisations for the period 2015 – 2018 with an additional £45,000 annual uplift to support its work with children in areas of particular need. Continued investment will enable Theatre Hullabaloo to sustain and develop its work as one of the UK’s leading companies making theatre for young audiences both nationally and internationally, reaching more than 15,000 children in theatres, schools and community venues each year.

The £45,000 uplift in funding will support the development of the annual TakeOff Festival, one of England’s principal festivals of theatre for children and young people, which takes place across venues in the North East of England every October, and sees some of the best theatre companies from the UK and abroad perform in the region for audiences aged from 6 months to 16 years. The additional investment enables the organisation to extend the reach of its annual festival to children in areas such as rural County Durham, where there is currently little cultural opportunity.

Miranda Thain, Creative Producer of Theatre Hullabaloo, said: 

“The opportunity to build a child-centred theatre in Darlington is a dream come true and as the only theatre of its kind in the North, the Hullabaloon will have a hugely positive impact for children and families based within the region for years to come. It will also make a significant contribution to children’s theatre nationally and internationally.  

“Theatre Hullabaloo is proud to be part of the National Portfolio and grateful to receive continued funding to bring quality theatre to children and families in our region. The investment also reinforces our position as an important cultural export for the North East. 

“Investment decisions have been made in the context of further cuts to the Arts Council’s budget, so we are delighted that, despite those pressures, opportunities for children and young people remain a priority. 

“The additional investment in the TakeOff Festival from 2015 onwards enables us to target world-class creative experiences to very young children in communities that wouldn’t usually benefit, building audiences that will be able to enjoy the rich creative programme in Darlington’s new children’s theatre when it opens. These opportunities not only bring communities together, but also challenge the minds, inspire the imaginations and enrich the childhoods of the next generation.”

Sharon Paterson, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Theatre Hullabaloo, said:

“Today’s announcement is the result of an outstanding vision for children and young people and their engagement with arts and culture in Darlington, and the tenacity and commitment of a huge number of people, particularly in the key partnership with Darlington Borough Council. Despite significant financial pressures, the Council’s commitment to the arts and to supporting Theatre Hullabaloo to pursue this ambitious project, has been outstanding and the Arts Council’s support of Theatre Hullabaloo is testament to its commitment to children and young people in our region. We look forward to working with our partners to realise this fantastic opportunity for children in Darlington and beyond.”

Councillor Nick Wallis, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Local Environment for Darlington Borough Council says: “This is excellent news and a welcome support in realising our vision of a Northern Centre of excellence for children’s theatre based here in Darlington. 

“We’re committed to making Darlington a place where art happens, where the arts matter and where arts and creativity are central to the town’s future identity and economic success and that is why we’re contributing £650,000 from the sale of the former Arts Centre.  Our strong partnership with the Arts Council and the work of Theatre Hullabaloo has been integral to taking this project forward.


“The funding will allow Theatre Hullabaloo and Darlington Borough Council to create a nationally significant children’s theatre space, in addition to our historic Civic Theatre, promoting excellent arts practice for children and young people while bringing more people into Darlington to take part in and enjoy the arts. But the space is not only for children and young people, it will also be used by the wider community so will benefit everyone in the Borough.”


John Dean, Chair of Darlington for Culture says: “We’re absolutely delighted that the proposal has been granted funding, our members have supported it all along and it will be an excellent addition to Darlington’s arts landscape.”



If you require further information, images, or would like to set up an interview, please contact Kelly Jackson, Communications Officer at Theatre Hullabaloo on 01325 352004 or email

Tiny Treasures Rehearsals: Week 1

23 May 2014

Tiny Treasures Rehearsals: Week 1

The Tiny Treasures team have had a busy first week in rehearsals... but they've managed to let us in on what they have been up to...

Stuart Mullins, Director
It's Wednesday evening and the process of making Tiny Treasures has been intense. We've made loads of discoveries; James' overall objective in the play is to hold his family together. That this will be his life forever, looking after his Mum. What an incredible realisation to have at the age of 13! Today Kevin the writer joined us and was very open to changes to the script; it's great to have him there to respond to our questions. Adam Farrell, who is playing James has been working really hard. He has over 20 pages of script to learn. Its not so much learning the words as knowing what James is doing when telling us his story. I think we've made an excellent start!

Leanne Rowley, playing "Mum"
A blog! Eeek, new to this. Bare with me readers. (I feel there should be some sort of disclosure - 'Any chaotic or rambling passages displayed within are in no way a reflection of the rehearsal period being as such'). For one thing is certain - there is a whole lot of focus going on down at ARC. But that's skipping ahead. (NB that disclosure...) Rewind a few weeks back to our development day in York where I met for the first time a group of young people who are nothing less than inspiring - they are the Young Carers Revolution. And beware, this revolution is in very good hands and is coming right for ya. Strong, witty, honest, intelligent... a few of the words that describe this group of children and young adults that not only have to deal with the struggles and challenges growing up throws at you - they do it whilst also being full time carers. A great day of playing for the first time around the text and movement and getting their initial feedback left me striding on home with one thing very  clear in my mind - this play has to be done right, the characters have to be truthful, for them.

Skip ahead to Monday, first day of rehearsals and after the meet and greet we stretched and played our way into the day with a bit of yoga and some games and got down to work. By mid afternoon Adam (who's playing James, and is forbidden to talk in his native southern tongue), Stuart (our director - an advocate of ale and actioning... I'm in) and I are staring down at a floor strewn with pieces of paper outlining and picking apart Kevin Dyer's beautiful script; we'd found the facts, defined the timeline, discussed structure and began our exploration of character and family. A short break occurred when Bek popped round to show a model of the set - *Spoiler alert* - er - hello! Is that a sink you can crawl through?? And a wardrobe to climb out of?? And a whole heap of other stuff we can scramble over?? (Yeah. We got a bit excited). Wednesday we'd get to see it in full - but right then, playtime was over... we took  up pencil, pulled up a pew, unleashed the script and began 'Actioning'.

So here we are - end of the third day and Section 1 has seen more action then the Avengers could ever dream of! Next up - getting it on it's feet...

Adam Ferrell, playing "James"
It’s only a few days into the rehearsal process for Tiny Treasures, and yet its feels like we’ve already covered a lot of ground! The first week has mainly seen director Stuart, fellow performer Leanne and I investigate the script and delve deep into James’ family – how they operate day-to-day, and for me especially, what drives James. That being said there’s a long way to go and I can’t wait for the challenges ahead and the chance to play about on the impressively cluttered set designed by Bek.

It’s also worth mentioning how much I enjoyed the chance to meet the guys at YCR three weeks ago. Reading the play in front of them was a nerve-wracking experience for me, especially considering they are responsible for creating the character of James! Luckily everyone was very friendly despite a fun but disastrous attempt at trying to teach the group one of my favorite drama games, ‘Schlack’.

Bring on the rest of the rehearsals!

Find out more about Tiny Treasures.

" a great way to introduce children to theatre"

13 May 2014

Devising a show to keep 2-5 year-olds amused for 50 minutes has to be a leap in the dark. But this dark has the magic of moonbeams and the wonder of stars to enchant the wide-eyed youngsters many of whom were nestling on the laps of mums and dads.

To put the audience at its ease Theatre Hullabaloo use the simple and very familiar setting of a bedroom, and to intrigue them it is set at the time when all good children should be asleep.

The gentle cello work of Greg Hall sets the mood before Billy (Chris Farish) emerges from under the duvet with his pal Pig. Pig of course being a dead-ringer for that childhood favourite Piglet. As the moonbeams fill the room Billy treats us to all the various way a child and a puppet can mess around with the bed clothes. A colourful and gentle introduction to physical theatre without the slightest hint of self-consciousness from Farish.

The magic hots up with the arrival of Luna, a sort of luminous moon-fairy who lights up the room with a most wonderful smile and bemused innocence.  The kids really enjoy the high-speed choreographed sequence as Luna (Jessica Hayles) tries hard to unmake the bed as fast as Billy tries to keep it together.  And there was some fun trickery with lights as Luna offers Billy moon-drops to eat instead of his raw carrots.

There is plenty of good-natured chirruping and chipping-in from the young audience throughout the show particularly when the topic of favourite food is aired. As the adventure unfolds and the plucky pair zoom through space we continue to be soothed by Hall’s moody cello. The nursery favourite ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ is the recurring song of the show and at the end everyone gets a chance to sing-along to a special version called ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Pig’ with Hall on guitar.

Luna is a great way to introduce children to theatre but parents should expect bedrooms to be in a bit of a mess for a few days – at least until the magic wears of

Read more at The Public Reviews

Find out more about Luna.

Angel: Casting call for actors now open

01 May 2014

Angel: Casting call for actors now open
We are now casting actors for our upcoming Autumn Tour of Angel.
Angel by Kevin Dyer
Directed by Ruth Cooper
Designed by Bek Palmer
Produced by Miranda Thain
A story of an unexpected friendship for audiences of 10 years and above
Production Company: Theatre Hullabaloo
Casting Workshop: Thur 29 May 2014 (Leeds)
Rehearsals: Thu 25 Sept – Thu 9 Oct 2014 (North East)
Previews: Fri 10 Oct 2014 (Darlington)
National Tour: Sat 11 Oct – Sun 9 Nov 2014
Theatre Hullabaloo is a pioneering theatre company creating quality work for young audiences. We believe that children and young people have an entitlement to access theatre of the highest quality and greatest artistic challenge, so we collaborate with artists working at the forefront of their art forms, developing ideas with young people, to create excellent and inventive theatre.
We are currently casting for our autumn touring production of Angel by Kevin Dyer:
One Female Actor to play: MIRIAM 
A highly-skilled performer is required to play Miriam an eccentric, witty and playful woman in her late 60s/70s. Miriam has trouble remembering things.
One Female Actor to play: BILL
A sensitive performer is required for the role of Bill, a feisty and thoughtful tomboy teenager. 
Playing age: 12 – 14 years
One Male Actor to play: LEWIE 
A male actor is required to play Lewie, an elderly man in a residential care home. Until the climax of the play the audience are not sure how alert Lewie is. 
Please send a CV and photograph by email only by Friday 16 May to and mark ANGEL: CASTING 
If you have specific questions about the project, please contact Miranda Thain, Creative Producer. 
Theatre Hullabaloo is an ITC Approved Manager and all fees, subsistence etc are in line with ITC / Equity agreements. All touring teams are DBS checked as part of normal employment procedure. 
Theatre Hullabaloo is an equal opportunities organisation.
Theatre Hullabaloo is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.

Find out more about Angel.

Luna: "magical 45 minutes that was stuffed full of unexpected delights" South Wales Echo

01 May 2014

Children's shows tend to be split into two camps - those big budget affairs that provide a blitzkrieg to the senses or those polar opposites which are small and perfectly formed.
The new show from the redoubtably dependable Theatr Iolo fell very much into the latter category as the Cardiff-based young persons' company eschewed sensory overload for something altogether simpler.
Aimed at the two to fives, Luna took a more subtle and understated diversion to enrapture its tiny crowd with a show that was enchantment personified.
A lyrical, musical theatre experience about friendship, the moon and being brave in the dark, the central narrative involved Billy and his companion Pig hiding under the covers afraid of the dark.
But then the playful and mischievous Luna popped down from the moon to play, bringing with her light and laughter - as well as reassurance into her new friend's world.
Created by Sarah Argent, Theatr Iolo's early years' director - music, puppetry, slapstick and some beautifully ethereal lighting all conspired to conjure up a magical 45 minutes that was stuffed full of unexpected delights.
There were giggles a plenty from the off as we were introduced to Billy and his moth-eaten pig - who appeared from under the sheets and embarked on their adventure thanks to some clever physical movement and ingenious puppetry.
Beautifully staged and delicately played by a cast of three - Luna (Catherine Lucie), Billy (Chris Farish) and accompanying musician Greg Hall, there were some lovely flourishes - especially a delightful porcine interpretation of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that had us all singing along merrily.
Played in the round with cushions scattered on the floor for the little ones to get close to the action, there was an all pervading sense of intimacy as we were led into this special world that had been created for us.
As escapist for the mums and dads as it was for those children who it was aimed at, this was a show that shone as brightly as the stars in the night sky.
South Wales Echo

Find out more about Luna.

Luna: "two-year-old son [...] was transfixed" The Good Review

25 April 2014

Knowing when to take a toddler to their first theatre show is a tricky thing to judge. You want them to experience the magic of live theatre entertainment as early as possible to fuel their burgeoning imagination but, do it prematurely, and it can be a disastrous experience ending in an early exit.
The thin line between success and failure is in part down to the child and whether they are mature enough. However, the show in question is also crucial; pick a boring one and the most mature of toddlers would struggle to sit through till the end.
Luna, a collaboration between Theatr Iolo and Theatre Hullabaloo, delivers across the board to be that ideal first show. Devised and directed by Sarah Argent, from an original story by Miranda Thain, Luna begins with boy called Billy fighting sleeplessness and a fear of the dark at bedtime with only his toy pig for company.
Given that ‘Pig’ is just a cuddly toy, much rests on the acting ability of Chris Farish who plays Billy and is on stage by himself for the first quarter of the show. The fact that he holds the youngest of audiences in the palm of his hand is testament to the quality of his performance. No less talented is Jessica Hayles who – with a joyful abandon – plays the role of Luna, the lonely moon bored among the stars who comes down from the night sky to keep Billy company. Despite being unable to speak, the interaction between her character and Billy is a delight to watch as the bond develops between them.
The great acting performances are superbly complimented by the third person on stage – Greg Hall who composed the soundtrack. The pre-recorded and ambient music sound track is supplemented by Greg’s masterful playing of the cello and acoustic guitar. He even chips in with a bit of singing from time-to-time.
Luna’s theme, of learning to overcome a fear of the dark and embracing slumber, is something that most little ones can relate to and no doubt explains why it has proven to be so captivating. The final and most telling verdict as to the success of the film was delivered by my livewire two-year-old son who, for the entire duration of Luna, was transfixed and silent except for laughing and the occasional pig impression. It was a successful debut theatre experience for him and for that I’m very grateful to the cast and creative team behind Luna.
Read review on The Good Review

Find out more about Luna.

Luna is Lovely, by Holly Borba, Rosy & Bo Buzz

17 October 2013

One of the things I love about being an American expat in Englad is the opportunity to see great theatre. What I love even more is when I can share that great theatre with my daughter who is seven and has autism. She loves books and storytelling but has enough sensory challenges to make accessing theatre and movies a potentially stressful experience rather than an enjoyable, enriching one.

We can usually count on Cambridge Juction and last Sunday's production of Luna by Theatre Hullabaloo possessed all the qualities that make for a successful experience. The story content was simple but interesting. The pace was slow but not boring, employing lots of physical gesture. The use of gesture and physicality is generally much better than a heavy reliance on spoken word which can be difficult for children on the spectrum to process.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of Luna was the beautiful live music. Live music is almost always better because the source can be seen and generally is not too loud. By contrast, recorded music generally is too loud and it can be difficult for a child to know where the sound is coming from, all of which would add anxiety for my daughter.

"Children have a sophisticated, emotional landscape."

Obviously live music adds to the educational value for all children as it allows them the opportunity to learn about different instruments and see how they're played. I liked the music so much I was wishing they had a CD from the performance. This isn't just a fanciful wish either. My daughter is incredibly resistant about having music on at home because she has so much anxiety about anything familier. Being able to access music from a familier story or play would be fantastic.

I spoke to Miranda Thain, Creative Producer for Theatre Hullabaloo, to tell her how much we enjoyed the show and how appropriate it was for my daughter. i asked whether their shows were ever made with autism or special needs in mind. While Luna wasn't specifically made with that in mind, Thain agrees the underpinning values of their early years  work - gentle, visual, musical, strong physicality and with an intimate engagement from the performers - have made for really good experiences for all children. "We've found that the sensory elements of the production aare engaging for babies as young as six months too. I have a strong belief that children have a more sophisticated, emotional landscape than sometimes we give them credit for, so we've made a show that we hope is emotionally meaningful for our audiences."

Another plus for Theatre Hullabaloo is they always include 'relaxed performances' so parents can feel confident to bring children with special needs. As a company which seems to have a good deal of influence in the world of children's theatre, I hope they wil inspire other  companies to adopt similar values in their productions.

Luna is on tour until the end of the year so catch them if you can. Check their touring schedule here.

Read this review online

Find out more about Luna.

"Director Sarah Argent and creative team have created a little star" Viv Hardwick, The Northern Echo on Luna

10 October 2013

The challenge: take your two-year-old granddaughter to her first show as a reviewer. No stress there then.

The even: Darlington-based Theatre Hullabaloo's latest children's play in front of 90 excitable infant school children with big-eyed granddaughter smack in the middle.

The result: The Northern Echo's youngest reviewer laughing in all the right places and enthralled by a production that included her current fabourite song, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Hullabaloo's artistic producer, Miranda Thain, came up with the idea of Luna and recruited Cardiff's Theatr Iolo to tie together the idea of the moon helping a little boy with his fear of the dark.

The masterstroke: A tiny stuffed toy pig that young Billy (Chris Farish) uses to communicate with the world and which immedietely won over young onlookers, including a two-year-old who pleaded for updates on the pig when he was stuck on a shelf at one point.

The arrival of Luna, the moon girl attired in glittery silver, with make-up to match, produced a cry of "it's a fairy" from my companion. Not far off... and, indeed, quite magical.

Some lovely silly pratfall humour ensued as Luna wrecked Billy's bedroom ET style to the accompaniment of Greg Hall's many forms of music.

Director Sarah Argent and the creative team have created a little star.

The little diamond of the day was sitting next to my left and she will be over the moon about her introduction to professional theatre... Or should that be over the Luna?

Read the review on The Northern Echo

Find out more about Luna.

Children's Theatre Takes Off in the North East

26 June 2013

Children's Theatre Takes Off in the North East
This autumn, Theatre Hullabaloo is keen to promote and celebrate all the fantastic theatre for children, young people, their families and friends this autumn across our region. We are inviting venues across the regtion to contribute to TakeOff: The Home of Theatre for Young Audiences in the North East, a new year-round collaboration spearheaded by the seven venues in the North East Children’s Theatre Consortium, aimed at raising the quality and profile of theatre for young audiences in our region.
As part of TakeOff, we are creating a regional brochure which will showcase the range of work that is available in the hope that it will raise the profile of this work and grow audiences and frequency of attendance. The brochure will have a circulation of 50,000, will be distributed across the North East and will cover the period from mid-September to mid-November (everything post-summer holidays and pre-Christmas extravaganzas).
We will also be including these opportunities on the website which will have a postcode and venue search facility.
Please let us know if you have something to include – we don’t want to miss anybody out and do want to celebrate the richness of what is available. Please submit your entries by Friday 5th July.


Find out more about Luna.

Programmer Announced for TakeOff Festival 2013

12 February 2013

Programmer Announced for TakeOff Festival 2013

Theatre Hullabaloo are thrilled to announce that Dani Parr, Associate Director at Royal and Derngate, will be programming TakeOff Festival 2013.

We would like to welcome Dani onto the Theatre Hullabaloo & TakeOff team - we are looking forward to working with her this year.

Find out more about Dani and further opportunities at TakeOff 2013 on the TakeOff Festival Website.

Follow Takeoff Festival on Twitter and like TakeOff Festival on Facebook for regular updates.

Find out more about Luna.

David Whetstone talks to Theatre Hullabaloo's Creative Producer, Miranda Thain about The North East Children's Consortium

07 January 2013

David Whetstone talks to Theatre Hullabaloo's Creative Producer, Miranda Thain about The North East Children's Consortium

David Whetstone, The Journal, on Theatre Hullabaloo's NECTC

PANTO time is when most children get taken to the theatre but a new consortium of North East venues is keen to make it a more frequent occurrence.

The North East Children’s Theatre Consortium aims to increase theatre provision for young audiences across the region and raise the quality of what’s on offer.

At a time when stories about budget cuts have figured prominently, the consortium looks like an initiative to lighten the gloom.

It is the brainchild of Miranda Thain, creative producer of the region’s specialist theatre company for young people, Darlington-based Theatre Hullabaloo.

Miranda says the idea was driven by the appetite for children’s theatre across the region and the fact some venues were programming work that wasn’t very good.

TV spin-off shows and “large stadium stuff” may pull in family audiences but Miranda believes they don’t always offer much mental stimulus.

Partners in the consortium, she says, “share the belief that children and young people have an entitlement to regular access to theatre of the highest quality in order to stir their imaginations, inspire their hearts and challenge their minds”.

Plenty of that sort of work can be seen in the annual Takeoff Festival of theatre for children and young people which has taken place in the North East since 1997 and is also masterminded by Theatre Hullabaloo.

The 2012 festival took place in Durham, following the closure of Darlington Arts Centre, with a three-day conference and shows by various British and European companies over six days.

“There are lots of little venues in the North East that programme a variety of work, including theatre for children and young people, and we invited them to come and talk to us about how we might work collaboratively,” says Miranda.

“Just as we started to talk about this the Arts Council came up with a new fund called Strategic Touring to encourage different theatre touring models. We decided to apply for funding, having agreed to work with these other venues, and were very successful in securing £166,000 for three years.”

The consortium, led by Theatre Hullabaloo, includes Arts Centre Washington, Gala Theatre, Durham, Darlington Civic Theatre, Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre, Lamplight Arts Centre, Stanley, and Middlesbrough Town Hall Theatre.

“It’s very exciting that the Arts Council is willing to support an initiative like this which involves different venues with different levels of resources,” says Miranda.

“It’s great that the venues are supporting it too because some of them are under threat from local authority cuts.”

The objectives of the consortium, whose work over three years will be evaluated by Teesside University, include the provision of an ambitious programme of theatre for young audiences, raising the profile of such work and working with the individual venues to build audiences in their area.

There’s another motive, as Miranda explains: “We are really hoping that in three years’ time we can establish the North East as one of the hotspots of children’s theatre in the world.”

Already, she says, there is considerable demand for children’s shows at North East theatres, with box office takings often exceeding those for adult productions.

But the consortium aims to put on more challenging work, encouraging a sense of adventure not just among children but among their parents.

In signing up to the consortium, the theatres have embraced the challenge but Miranda acknowledges that it’s sometimes easier to book – or to buy tickets for – shows that ride on the back of successful TV programmes.

“A lot of it is to do with confidence,” she says.

With some good shows under its belt and positive word-of-mouth, she hopes the consortium will develop a reputation for top quality and build trust in its audiences.

Miranda believes a North East circuit of venues will make it more attractive for theatre companies to visit the region.

She also envisages more work being done around a production.

“We’re looking at an extended programme of activities so you don’t just see a 50-minute show but get the opportunity to do other things in the venue afterwards.

“We are also hoping to develop a loyalty offer so that if, for instance, you make four visits to the theatre, you get a fifth visit free.

“We want to encourage the idea that the theatre isn’t something that just happens at Christmas.”

The 2012 Takeoff Festival included 52 performances of plays from many different places, including Theatre Hullabaloo’s own production of The Elves and the Shoemakers which went on a successful tour at the end of the year.

Read this article online

Find out more about Luna.

Angel Review: "children's theatre at its best"

23 February 2012

Angel Review:

For a children's theatre company to produce a play aimed at age 10 and above about the relationship between young and old and dealing with dementia and memory loss is brave indeed, so let it be said right from the outset the Theatre Hullabaloo's Angel is an unqualified success.

Bill, a young girl with a not entirely happy home life ( her parents are on the verge of seperating) meets Miriam who is slipping into but fighting against dementia. A highly unlikely friendship springs up between the two and Bill is able to help Miriam come to terms with some regrets from the distant past and, to an extent, accept the present. As she does so, the play touches on a range of age-related issues, not least the way in which society diminishes the elderly "for their own good".

Stated so baldly it sounds like one of those worthy but dull theatre in education pieces which concentrate on issues rather than character or plot, but that does the play - and this production - a great disservice, for both are sensitive, poignant and at time funny, involving the audience in the story and allowing it to make the point subtly, indeed almost subliminally.

Issue-driven theatre can be patronising but Angel doesn't even come close. The characters are well drawn, totally believable with both good and so attractive traits. Real human beings, in fact.

I saw it in its second preview, in front of an audience comprised of young children(about 10, I think) and group of old people under the auspices of Age Concern. Both groups were held - fascinated might be a better word - throughout. They can both be somewhat difficult audiences, being inclined to make audible comments, but not here.

The cast of three - Jessica Barnes as Miriam, Lindsey Chapman as Bill and Adrian Palmer as Lewie - under the direction of Ruth Cooper keep the piece moving at a good pace, avoiding the temptation to overdo the moments of pathos and really endear themselves to the audience.

This is children's theatre at its best, which means that adults will both enjoy it and get alot from it, because good children's theatre is just good theatre!

Read the review on the British Theatre Guide here.

Find out more about Angel.

Vote for The Night Pirates

15 September 2011

Vote for The Night Pirates

Here are Theatre Hullabaloo, we are thrilled to announce that our production of The Night Pirates, by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright, has nominated for the Off West End Award's Best Production for Young People.

The Offies (The Off West End Theatre Awards) are here to recognise and celebrate the excellence, innovation and ingenuity of independent theatres across London.

Read more here...

The public vote opens on 31st December 2011 and will stay open until 14th February, so make sure you click on the link above and vote for The Night Pirates!



Find out more about The Night Pirates.

Theatre Hullabaloo are Recruiting

02 August 2011

Theatre Hullabaloo are Recruiting

Theatre Hullabaloo are looking to recruit an Operations Manager to support the organisation’s development, with a particular focus on the Takeoff Festival of theatre for children and young people, a major part of Theatre Hullabaloo’s programme of work. This is a senior role within the organisation with responsibility for operational and financial management.

The Operations Manager Job Description and Application Form can be downloaded on the Theatre Hullabaloo website.

Please submit your application to by 12 noon Wed 24th August. Interviews will be held week commencing 5th September 2011.

Salery: £25,779 per annum, pro rata

Hours: 32 hrs/week


Find out more about The Night Pirates.


30 March 2011


Darlington based children's theatre company secures a 30% increase in Arts Council funding amidst massive government cuts to the Arts

A leading theatre company for children and young people based in Darlington is one of only 695 arts organisations in England to be successful in its inclusion in the Arts Council’s new National Portfolio of Organisations (NPO). Theatre Hullabaloo is celebrating this latest success of 30% to its annual funding, which will ensure the company is funded for a further four years to produce high quality theatre for children and families.

The Arts Council’s new funding approach, which coincides with 29.6% of government cuts to the sector over the next four years, arises out of a major consultation around the Arts Council’s 10 year strategic framework, “Achieving great art for everyone”.

Theatre Hullabaloo’s Creative Producer, Miranda Thain, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been included in the new portfolio, especially as overall funds have been cut. Our uplift in funding will support more educational work and a larger festival for the benefit of schools and families across Co. Durham.

“Theatre Hullabaloo creates quality theatre which tours regionally, nationally and internationally, but it is our projects closest to home which are the most special. Last month we welcomed over 1500 of our youngest audiences to share our dance installation, Five, and we are now planning a new project bringing children and older people together in an intergenerational project about childhood.”

In the face of Council cuts to the arts, Theatre Hullabaloo has also been working closely with partners in Darlington to ensure there is a quality cultural offer in the borough. “The withdrawal of support for the arts by the Borough Council will leave a massive gap in the cultural offer for the community and we have been working hard with the Council and other arts providers to come up with ways to protect the best of what we do,” says Thain. “Now we have received our NPO funding we are much better placed to ensure that our youngest audiences and their families can receive the fantastic theatre that they deserve.”

For more information please contact Miranda Thain on 01325 352 004, 07715 111 629 or email

Find out more about The Night Pirates.

Kids Stuff...

26 January 2011

Kids Stuff...

We have been working hard over the last few months alongside our website company and graphic designer, Edward Robertson & The Pixotheque, to develop the "Kids Stuff" section of our website and it's fair to say that we're pretty proud of it!

We want it to be a place that children who have seen our productions can visit to enjoy an enhanced theatre experience.

Not only can you find activies and competitions on our site, but you can also view galleries of pictures that children have done as a result of seeing our shows and find out more about featuring on our website as a reviewer in the Young Editors Section.

If you have any other ideas on how we could use the "Kids Stuff" section of our website, please email them to Dorcas

We hope you enjoy looking around the site -

Find out more about The Night Pirates.

“Director Sarah Argent has not so much adapted Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright’s children’s picture book for the stage, as brought it to life”

20 October 2010

“Director Sarah Argent has not so much adapted Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright’s children’s picture book for the stage, as brought it to life”

Thom Dibden, The Stage, on The Night Pirates 20/11/2010

Director Sarah Argent has not so much adapted Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright’s children’s picture book for the stage, as brought it to life. Bek Palmer’s design is all about finding a way to recreate Allwright’s dynamic style of illustration. Her solution is to make the transition of one scene to the next a part of the story - mimicking the book’s equally dynamic use of lettering.

Other companies specialising in children’s book adaptations would have given the characters additional material and big introductions - most notably Stephen Cavanagh’s Moon, who steps out of his high crib to narrate. Here, however, Cavanagh uses no more than the existing lines and his own sympathetic performance to drive the plot.

The key is a strong multidisciplinary approach. Cavanagh’s storytelling is complimented by puppetry from Samuel Dutton, who manipulates a knee-high Tom, the boy who wakes up to find that girl pirates have stolen the front of his house, and a tiny but gallus grown-up pirate, whose treasure is stolen by Tom and the girl pirates.

It is dancer Momo Yeung, as the Captain of the Girl Pirates, who ensures that the magic feels real, as she moves around the stage en pointe and then casually adds the odd grand jete into the mix. With the acrobatic Maisie Whitehead, they create both girl and grown-up pirates with ease.

Atmospheric music from Wayne Walker-Allen is vital, alghouth Nick Kent’s lighting is occasionally wayward. But it is that dressing and re-dressing of the set which really catches the imagination of the under-five audience, allowing them to feast upon the play as they would a picture.

Read this article online

Find out more about The Night Pirates.

"One of the cleverest pieces of gentle entertainment to ever grace the seven seas"

11 October 2010

Viv Hardwick, The Northern Echo, on The Night Pirates, 11/10/2010

THIS family-friendly book by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright has become 45 minutes to treasure thanks to the experience of the North’s only Arts Councilfunded producing house for children’s theatre.

Fans of the original story gain the warm familiarity of sets and central characters taken directly from this seafaring adventure.

Director Sarah Argent bases the book’s hero, Tom, on a puppet mainly operated by Samuel Dutton, with the Moon and narrator Stephen Cavanagh managing to add Tom’s cat puppet as well.

The ballet-dancing Momo Yeung and agile Maisie Whitehead switch between the stealthy girl pirates, who steal the front of Tom’s house, to the treasure island’s sleepy pirates outwitted by the young pretenders.

There’s also room for a broken Spanish-speaking monkey, again operated by Dutton, which was a real hit with the opening audience of 100 youngsters from Heathfield School, Darlington.

Choreographer Kitty Winter is in her element, with some inventive comedy movement worthy of Keaton and Chaplin.

From the first click of the Moon’s fingers, which triggered a light inside Tom’s house, the five-and-unders sat enthralled by one of the cleverest pieces of gentle entertainment to ever grace the seven seas.

Designer Bek Palmer and creative producer Miranda Thain deserve an extra tot of grog for ensuring some catwalk creations grace the heads of the pirates. Who said piracy doesn’t pay?

Find out more about The Night Pirates.

Securing our Legacy - The Future of Young People's Theatre

08 October 2010

Securing our Legacy - The Future of Young People's Theatre

Miranda Thain, creative producer of Theatre Hullabaloo, says theatre aimed at young audiences must not rest on its laurels, especially in these austere times, but needs to look to restructuring and reinvention

Last week Stuart Mullins, creative director of Theatre Is…, gave his vision of a brighter future in the way we create theatre for young audiences. His call for leadership in the sector is timely, but it is important to turn a critical eye on the achievements made during a long period of relatively high investment.

Theatre for young audiences is at an interesting crossroads. Following more than a decade of higher levels of resources and a political zeitgeist that dared to dally with the idea of “cultural entitlement” for the young, we face a new reality. For those of us who are privileged enough to create theatre for young audiences and see its impact in schools and theatres every day, Philip Pullman’s assertion that it “feeds the heart, nourishes the soul and enlarges the spirit” is undeniable. With a political context preoccupied with austerity and the power of market forces, the vital space in childhood that gives us room to imagine might be considered an expensive luxury we cannot afford.

A number of tenacious and talented artists have always created excellent work for young audiences, but to discuss the best ways to move forward, we must face up to the fact that the experience of theatre for most children and young people remains pedestrian. This is largely owing to a mass of companies seeing commercial opportunities in schools and meeting them with low-rent didacticism or panto. However, companies receiving Arts Council England support must also recognise that our work has often been limited by a lack of ambition and willingness to demand more from our audiences.

To compound the problem, the excellent work that is created often stands in isolation without support to help develop it and enable it to tour. In Scotland, the best work is kept in repertory, supported by structures to develop its artists and given platforms on which to be seen internationally.

Read the rest of this article

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Piratical Challenge

03 October 2010

Piratical Challenge A small but dedicated creative team are focusing their efforts on transferring a much-loved picture book from page to the stage, as Terri-Leigh Riley finds out.

There is nothing more magical for young children than the coming to life of a beloved bedtime story. And the creative team at Darlington-based Theatre Hullaballoo are working hard on making this happen with their adaptation of The Night Pirates, a picture book by Peter Harris.

Theatre Hullaballoo is unique in the North East as the only company funded by the Arts Council to make work specifically for children and young people. I popped in to meet the team to find out more about the project.

Miranda Thain is creative producer and I was curious about what made her choose to work with young audiences. “I think that they’re the most interesting and perceptive audience,” she says. “You can make magic for children and that’s one of the most exciting reasons to make theatre.”

Other members of the team also specialise in creating work aimed at children. Kitty Winter loves working as a choreographer for children’s theatre. “It’s such a lovely, rewarding field to work in,” she says. “I enjoy it far more than doing work for grown-ups, there’s so much more invention and fun.”

Meanwhile, Night Pirates director Sarah Argent describes herself as “firmly in the world of three to four-year-olds.”

The Night Pirates storybook, illustrated by Deborah Allwright, is a fun, adventurous story about a brave boy called Tom, who goes on an adventure with little girl pirates. They steal the front of his house to disguise their pirate ship and battle with grown-ups for treasure. Both the book and the play are aimed at three to seven-year-olds, but are enjoyable to a much wider age range.

The simplicity required for such a young audience does not limit the book’s scope for imagination, and the play promises to be even more packed with creative imagery, puppetry, music and dance. Adaptations can often stray far from their originals, but this team have been incredibly faithful to the story.

Miranda described how the storybook was taken to lots of nurseries to see how the children reacted. “There were lots of little details in the story that they absolutely loved, which gave us a huge sense of responsibility. We hope to create the world in enough detail for them not to be disappointed.”

The team are trying to include as much material from the book as possible, from the pirate costume designs to the little rat that appears on every page. They have also decided to keep all of the author’s original words.

Stephen Cavanagh will be narrating the story in his role as the moon. “Our principle is that the words should punctuate the physical action of the dancing, puppetry and music,” he says. Though the creative team found children to be a delightful audience from behind the scenes, I wondered how challenging they were for performers.

Stephen has worked on both adult and children’s productions in the past and assured me that performing for kids was “at least as demanding as theatre for adults.” He added that the honesty and directness of young children can be incredibly rewarding, but not always. “Young audiences can be quite tough. If you make a mistake, they zero in on it immediately and you get comments like, ‘He’s not really crying!’ It takes a lot of energy, but there’s a really direct engagement. “The kids want to go along with it – they’re very keen to be taken somewhere. If they like it they’re very enthusiastic and they won’t hesitate in letting you know.”

Stephen will be working alongside three other cast members and all of them will play multiple roles. As well as narrating, he will move pieces of the set to change scenes and assist the main puppeteer, Samuel Dutton.

The dancers, Momo Yeung and Maisie Whitehead, will be simulating a clash between two rival pirate gangs, despite there only being two of them.

When developing her choreography, Kitty loves working alongside the performers. “It’s lovely to have the performer’s input right from the beginning, so I’m not just making something abstract and then plonking it on to a dancer. The character is being developed with the dancers in mind. “Our two dancers have very different training backgrounds, Momo is a ballet dancer and Maisie is a contemporary dancer, so it’s been really lovely to make the work that fits them both.”

Kitty says she has used the picture books as a basis for ideas: “For every picture that a character appears in, we’ve pretended that it is a frozen moment in the middle of a movement sequence. Then we’ve imagined what that sequence might be.”

Bek Palmer is the designer charged with recreating the book’s wonderful illustrations on stage. Tom will a be a bunraku puppet that looks exactly like the story character and other elements, such as the ship and Tom’s bed, will look the same as in the book. There will be a fantastic transforming scene, in which the performers move parts of the set and Tom’s bedroom becomes a pirate ship. “The children will see images being built in front of them,” says Bek.

Director Sarah says this is “linked to the way that children play and transform things themselves,” which, for me, fits perfectly with the book’s subtle suggestion that the adventure happens in Tom’s imagination. “We want to root it in the world that the children will recognise, with that excitement of sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night,” adds Sarah.

Find out more about The Night Pirates.

Takeoff Festival 2010 Launched

01 September 2010

Takeoff Festival 2010 Launched

Tickets are now available to book for Takeoff 2010.

TAKEOFF FESTIVAL is the annual sector-development festival for those working in the field of theatre for young audiences. We invite a range of companies from the UK and abroad to present their work and provide a forum for debate and comparison to raise awareness of the achievement and potential of our field amongst funders, producers and promoters.

Takeoff Festival is an important part of Theatre Hullabaloo's offer as a member of the European Small Size network. Each year we work with our colleagues from the UK and beyond to present a programme of work within the festival that focuses particularly on theatre for the very youngest. Takeoff 2010 retains an Early Years element as well as presenting a range of work for young people across the age spectrum.

This year's festival programme includes a great range of shows, an opportunity to see a presentation from WebPlay, be 'In Conversation With...' representatives from the world of children's TV, the commercial sector and the media and share scratch performances in our Departure Lounge.

Takeoff 2010 will be hosted at Darlington Arts Centre on 11th and 12th November. Delegate packages are £150 and are available to buy on our website.

Don’t forget to follow all the latest from TakeoffFestival on Twitter
Become a fan of Takeoff Festival on Facebook

Find out more about The Night Pirates.

FIVE has been Nominated for an Award!

04 June 2010

FIVE has been Nominated for an Award!

FIVE, our contemporary dance installation for Early Years, has been nominated for Outstanding Production in the Theatre for Young Audiences category of the Toronto Theatre Awards, The Dora Mavor Moore Awards.

This is very prestigious, a real achievement for the exchange with Theatre Direct and fabulous recognition of this very lovely piece which has now been in our repertoire for nearly 3 years.

We are particularly pleased that the nomination will attract more profile in Canada for Early Years work. The awards ceremony is in Toronto on 28th June – fingers crossed!

FIVE is available for week long residencies and festival bookings in Spring and Summer 2011.

Please contact Diann on 01325 352 004 or email for more information.

Find out more about FIVE.

“This show is really something special and unexpected!”

12 April 2010

A F Harold,, on My Mother Told Me Not to Stare, 12/04/2010

It’s a real pleasure to see a show aimed at children that is neither simple or easy; that isn’t a spin-off from a TV show or cartoon or staging of a popular book; that isn’t just slapstick and fart jokes – although there is nothing necessarily bad about any of those, just that this show is really something special and unexpected.

My Mother Told Me Not to Stare is an opera from Theatre Hullabloo, composed by Martyn Harry (fellow of music at St Anne’s and St. Hilda’s colleges in Oxford) to a book and libretto by Irish-Australian playwrite Finegan Kruckemeyer, and it is decidedly contemporary in its soundscape.

The story is part Tim Burton, part Mervyn Peake, part Grimm Brothers and part straightforward run-of-the-mill Gothic horror, with a healthy pinch of Shock-Headed Peter sprinkled on top, like seasoned shepherd on the crust of a shepherd pie.

There is a sort of friendly narrator figure who leads us through: he’s pointy toed and shock-haired like the scissor man, but he seems to be on our side. He speaks and sings and points things out to us and the story is something like this...

A boy, Bobby Rogers, grows up in a dark little town to a pair of miserable cobblers (who had a child because his small hands could do the fiddly work they’d grown too old to manage). Every morning all the children of the town are paraded to the town square where they recite The List: a lengthy litany of ‘My Mother told me not to...’ which ends with the threat that were any child to break a rule on purpose ‘...they would cease to be a child’.

Bobby has one friend, who he meets every Sunday – his day off work – a girl called Emily Ives, who he’s secretly in love with. When children start disappearing (after breaking the rules) they devise a plan to discover what’s going on. Bobby sits up a tree with a net, while Emily stands underneath ready to break a rule. But instead of catching whoever it is that’s stealing the children away, Bobby finds that Emily simply vanishes... and thus ends the first act.

The second act sees Bobby find his way to The Fixing Kitchen, where the naughty children are taken to be ‘mended’, under the caring and careful eye of the witch-like Nurse (think Nurse Ratched caring for babies). Although the resolution isn’t exactly happy, Bobby does save the day, and the opera ends years later with the possibility of Emily and Bobby meeting up again.

The whole atmosphere is dark and weird, and the mix of live action and projection (animation and shadow-puppetry), of live music and pre-recorded music, of narration and singing, of the slightly sloping stage and the coiling wire tree from which the stolen children’s likenesses are hung make the whole show somewhat queasy, like being at sea, like being uncertain.

Beside the real actors there are a variety of puppets, from life size ones down to little dolls, all with a pallid grey skin and strange look to them, and added to them are the dolls that float around the edge of the landscape in glass bulbs, like Victorian belljars in a dusty anatomist’s front room. And the eeriness is compounded by the projections that play behind, like clips of German expressionist cinema, with repeated disembodied eye motifs, made more resonant now by Stephen Moffat’s use of the same giant eye for Matt Smith’s premiere episode as the Doctor.

For the most part the music is shrieking, fearsome and fearful, little repeated patterns and harsh chords, with patches of, if not sunlight, then at least a cold-lighted warmth breaking through. The sudden intrusion into the picture of operatic singing is shocking (not in the sense of being a surprise, per se, since this is an opera, but in the true sense of the word) – it’s simply outside the normal, beyond the fringe of what’s normally seen on a children’s stage. It makes the words difficult to follow, one leans forward to understand, to follow the melismas, to peer closer at these figures made inhuman by the sounds they make. It’s hugely effective, and strangely beautiful.

The whole cast perform wonderfully, which is what you expect from a company like this, but to do so to an audience of, maybe, slightly less than a dozen, on a Friday afternoon is a testament to the ethic that shines through the dark off this work.

A haunting and gripping tale, that is funny and moving, and probably a unique experience for many kids. It’s easy to understand why a score like this, in this style, might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s most decidedly not easy listening, but children are not as narrow-minded as is sometimes believed and if they could just be tempted to try this parents might be surprised at the results. Those that were there on this balmy afternoon soon fell under the show’s spell and won’t soon forget it (or sleep at night).

Find out more about My Mother Told Me Not to Stare.

“It was all very funny and surreal and interesting”

22 March 2010

Eloise Leach age 7,, on My Mother Told Me Not to Stare, 22/03/2010

We went to the Unicorn Theatre on London’s South Bank on Saturday to see ‘My Mother Told Me Not to Stare’, which was a production by Hullabaloo. The Hullabaloo is a company from the North of England who offer opera suitable for children.

The theatre was very little and it was full. The stage was very low because it was just the ground with lots of rocks on to make it interesting. I didn’t think it looked very exciting to begin with.

Then, when the lights went off a bizarre man walked in, he looked very strange with short curly grey hair and unusual clothes. He looked into a big glass bowl with a model village in it. He started to sing a story about some of the things that happened in the village. The song sounded beautiful with such high and low notes. I’m used to listening to rock music so this was something very different for me and it made an immediate impression on me. The story was about a boy, Bobby Rogers, who loved a girl in the village called Emily Ives. If children did not follow the rules in this village they would disappear. The narrator appeared many times to sing their tale.

Puppets and shadow projection were also used to tell the story and add to the plot. There were only 5 people in the whole production. Bobby and Emily were people. Bobby’s parents were life size puppets. All the babies were dolls and the other children were puppets. Apart from the baby dolls all the puppets were controlled differently and looked like their characters personality. Even the real people wore masks sometimes! The round screen in the background showed scenery, and backgrounds and sometimes important parts of the story! It was all very funny and surreal and interesting.

The costumes were just ordinary clothes; just like the clothes you would wear everyday, nothing exciting. But the narrator looked very different he wore a costume a bit like Johnny Depp in ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

The entire story was told in a song, but that didn’t make it difficult to follow. The song put more expression into the words and added more meaning to the tale, helping you to understand it more.

It was a very happy ending for Bobby and Emily, who stopped the baddie and fell in love again. When I came out of the theatre I felt happy that I’d seen it because it made me feel very good.

Find out more about My Mother Told Me Not to Stare.

“My Mother Told Me Not to Stare isn’t really like anything else”

21 March 2010

Gary Naylor, Reviews, on My Mother Told Me Not to Stare, 21/03/2010

Almost a hundred years ago, Russian formalist Vladimir Propp analysed folk tales into irreducible elements of plotting and characters. I was grateful for my rudimentary understanding of his work as Finegan Kruckemeyer's story and Martyn Harry's music were fused into Theatre Hullabaloo and Action Transport Theatre extraordinary operetta for children, "My Mother told me not to stare". With a plot that presents such familiar devices as neglectful parents, unrequited love and exile as punishment for rule-breaking, the audience can hang on to something familiar as everything else spins wildly out to the more distant reaches of what theatre can do.

Tom Bates, bewigged in the style of Hugh Laurie's George from Blackadder the Third, acts as a narrator and starts conventionally, but is soon using his soaring counter-tenor voice to sing his lines as other members of the cast play the strange, dissonant, but ultimately beautiful music that underlines the operetta's tension to a sometimes almost unbearable pitch. Before long, lifesize puppets are singing, projections of characters are appearing on the circular screen at the back of the stage and children are chanting rules in the Town Square and disappearing when guilty of the pettiest of infractions.

Director Nina Hajiyianni has assembled a multi-talented cast and is ambitious enough to push even their talents to the limit. Andrew Sparling (clarinet and baritone) conveys the horror of a lost son in a hideously beautiful lament sung with Eleanor Meynell (soprano and piano), whom we see later as a grotesque, masked nurse in the terrifying Fixing Kitchen. Ms Meynell's piano is a delight that weaves in and out of the play, providing a musical illustration of the hopes and fears of the children. As the two thwarted lovers, Gary Albert Hughes (flute and tenor) and Eva Karell (violin and soprano), give intense performances, full of desire and pain. Mr Hughes' Bobby contorts his angular body, as Bobby's mind twists and turns, wrestling with his conditioning to obey absurd rules and his growing understanding that right and wrong are not determined by compliance with what others demand, but in understanding what right and wrong really mean. Ms Karell, only recently graduated from the Royal College of Music, shows real star quality as the feisty Emily who leads Bobby to adulthood. Ms Karell, a Swede who has performed in Germany and the UK, is a performer of whom we will hear much in the future.

The plot has echoes of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials and the design elements of Tim Burton's aesthetic, but "My Mother told me not to stare" isn't really like anything else. Children can enjoy it, but this operetta is really for anyone who wishes to explore what theatre can do in 2010. You can catch this extraordinary production on tour now and in festivals throughout the summer.

Find out more about My Mother Told Me Not to Stare.

“This stretches the boundaries of children’s theatre in a darkly entertaining, absurd tour de force”

13 March 2010

Katherine Kirwin,, on My Mother Told Me Not to Stare, 13/03/2010

My Mother Told Me Not To Stare (MMTMNTS) is a gothic, puppet performance for children and adults alike, told in an operetta style. This production stretches the boundaries of what can be called children’s theatre in a darkly entertaining, absurd tour de force.

MMTMNTS presents a world of Upper Crumble where children are instructed a set of strict rules which must be obeyed, all of which seem to be inspired by the old wife’s tales we have all grown up with – ‘never stare’ ‘never swallow the pips of your fruit’. If these rules are broken on purpose by the children then they disappear, mysteriously and ominously. Imagine a lump of Road Dahl’s dark humour, mixed with Tim Burton’s aesthetic style and a dash of Sweeney Todd, and that gives you an idea of this production.

The storyline of the piece followed the development of Bobby Rogers as he grows from a boy to a man, losing his friend because she broke the rules, challenging ‘The List’ and learning that it is better to do something good because it’s good than because something bad will happen. The physical performance by Gary Hughes as Bobby Rogers was captivating as his awkward, exaggerated body grew into the strong physicality of a man.

The action is fantastically presented by the narration of The Man, confidently performed by Tom Bates, as a British Willy Wonka-esque guide to this dark world, speaking in a lyrical manner which blends almost seamlessly between spoken narration and song. Each of the actors in this company is frighteningly talented; not just as actors, but singers, musicians and puppeteers. The puppets were my favourite aspect ranging from a miniature girl puppet with a mini rubber ring to a giant head of a talkative child, to the full body puppets of the grown-up characters. They were very well integrated into the piece and used to comedic as well as dramatic effect.
There were flaws in this performance in terms of the intensity of the music and enunciation at points, the second half was less engaging than the first, however I cannot help but focus on the positive elements and applaud the efforts of Hullabaloo and Action Transport Theatre. Opera is often perceived to be an elitist art-form, an acquired taste, but if we fail to introduce young people to opera then there will be a whole generation who become excluded from a potentially rich art-form. This production is making a feisty, concerned effort to create an operetta that speaks to young people’s concerns yet engages the adults accompanying them. As I left I overhead someone say that it was ‘very challenging’ and that’s exactly the direction in which young people’s theatre should be moving.

Find out more about My Mother Told Me Not to Stare.

“A Brave attempt to make what is essentially high art available to children”

25 February 2010

“A Brave attempt to make what is essentially high art available to children”

Nick Turner, The Cumberland News, on My Mother Told Me Not To Stare, 25/02/2010

FILM projections, puppetry and live music performed by the cast created an innovative and challenging gothic operetta.

The story that unfolded was disturbing and engaging in equal measure and encouraged my two children to persevere with the operatic singing (a few whispered explanations from me also helped).

The talented cast combined their singing, acting and puppetry skills to show how “naughty” children who disobeyed the rules of a town called Upper Crumble vanished without trace. We learned that they were taken to the sinister “fixing kitchen” where they were recycled back into babies for new parents.

Tom Bates injected some dark humour as a narrator who could have stepped straight out of a Tim Burton film.

The haunting music of Oxford lecturer Martyn Harry was another stand-out feature in a production that was a brave attempt to make what is essentially high art accessible to its target audience of children over eight.

For me it was sad to reflect on a story of missing children on a day when we had heard so much about how thousands of children were deported to Australia and given new identities.

And it was sad too to see that less than 30 people had turned out to see this show.

Do people not realise that thousands of free tickets for this and other events at Theatre by the Lake are going begging for anyone under 26?

Either something has gone seriously astray with the marketing of this laudible initiative or Cumbrians are turning their noses up at the chance of a free night at the theatre.

Now, that is an horrific thought.

Anyway, enough of my views - this was an operetta created for children so here’s the verdict of my two.

Phoebe Turner, 11: “I’m glad it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. The singing was excellent, but it took a bit of getting used to and sometimes it felt like there was too much. Overall I really enjoyed the show – a unique performance.”

Madeleine Turner, 9: “I liked the mixture of people and puppets. The music was really good and I enjoyed the singing. It was a bit weird and strange and it made me feel quite sad when the children were doing naughty things and we knew they would be taken away to the fixing kitchen.”

Find out more about My Mother Told Me Not to Stare.

“Brave, innovative and breaking new ground…”

23 February 2010

Viv Hardwick, The Northern Echo, on My Mother Told Me Not to Stare, 23/02/2010

BRAVE, innovative and breaking new ground with a disturbing, high-pitched Benjamin Britten-style Gothic opera using Australian Finegan Kruckemeyer’s words and Oxford lecturer Martyn Harry’s haunting music.

This should be the production which gains Darlington-based Theatre Hullabaloo, and Ellesmere Port’s Action Transport some international accolades.

Troublingly, the overlong songs pushed the production way beyond its 90 minute intended running time and some younger members of the audience were clearly uncomfortable with director Nina Hajiyianni’s pedestrian pace. Children don’t need to be smacked over the head with a constantly repeated dialogue however glossily presented, using clever central circular screen images designed by Bek Palmer.

Tom Bates amuses with a Burtonesque narrator who stitches together an eerie tale of children who are “naughty”

magically vanishing from the Candleford-era village of Upper Crumble.

The rest of the talented cast combine musical, singing, acting and puppetry duties as a host of characters are brought to life.

Gary Albert Hughes is Bobby Rogers (plus flute), the boy who finally challenges “the list”

that all children must obey and ends the tyranny of the fixing kitchen where trouble-makers are taken back to babydom and allocated to fresh parents – just don’t let Gordon Brown hear of that one.

Eva Karell plays the violin and Bobby’s love interest Emily Ives. Eleanor Meynell whips from piano to Mrs Rogers and the monstrous fixing kitchen Nurse. Andrew Sparling (clarinet) is Mr Rogers and the morbid Mr Allen, robbed of a daughter because she went out with a coat in winter.

My 11-year-old companion enjoyed the nightmarish and sometimes confusing scenes on stage, but grew anxious because he couldn’t tell the baddies from the goodies.

Then again, isn’t genius always a little close to madness?

Find out more about My Mother Told Me Not to Stare.

Takeoff 2009 a Soaring Success

18 November 2009

Takeoff 2009 a Soaring Success We would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who attended Takeoff 2009 at Darlington Arts Centre last week, including the performers and the companies who brought their shows and helped make the festival an extremely inspiring experience for all.

The two day festival was a great opportunity to see a diverse range of good quality theatre for children and young people under one roof.

The festival also coincided with our 30th anniversary year and we were proud to have so many industry peers to help us celebrate with a piece of birthday cake. We were also honoured to have a visit from the Mayor who came with his wife to watch our production of Beneath The Banyan Tree, which closed the Festival.


Takeoff 2010 will be held at the Darlington Arts Centre on the 11th and 12th November and bookings will open on the 1st September 2010.

Do you have a show you would like us to include in next year's festival? Or an idea to present as part of the Departure Lounge? Visit our website for more details of opportunities and deadlines -


Following on from the success of this year, would you like to select shows and shape the artistic programme of the Takeoff Festival in 2010? If so, visit our website to download a recruitment pack -

Deadline for applications - 12pm Friday 11th December 2009

Find out more about My Mother Told Me Not to Stare.

Great Review of Beneath The Banyan Tree in The Stage

12 October 2009

By Kevin Berry

This first staging of Emil Sher's popular story reaches out in such admirable fashion. It draws children and their parents in and they are thoroughly absorbed. There is vivid, exciting colour in the costumes and the props, such as an adorable peacock fan, and sweet exhilaration in the free ranging physicality.

Anjali is a young Indian girl, newly arrived in the cold, damp UK. Initially bewildered and unsure of what to do, she gradually gains the courage to be herself. Anjali loves dancing and we see her perform in the Bharatanatyam style, from Southern India. English and Indian cultures meet and share. Going to school becomes a dance, as do playground antics. Archana Ballal plays Anjali with affecting sincerity. Grethe Jenson gives crucial support as her grandmother and an initially unpleasant schoolgirl.

An interesting element is Sher's dialogue. Pure and simple, yet having reassuring truths that children will recognise. They will respond to its clarity and immediacy.

A banyan tree dominates the stage, roots spreading around the performance space. Its trunk is a frame on which John Afzal and Paul Conway climb, hang and swing. Afzal has a delectable voice and he keeps it beautifully toned. Conway is excellent as Anjali's first new English friend and his playing of the spoons is sure to inspire children who see him.

Beneath the Banyan Tree is Theatre Hullabaloo's first venture under what is a new name. The company was formally known as CTC Theatre and is celebrating 30 years of theatre making.

Read the review on The Stage website

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Article in Darlington & Stockton Times, Friday 25th September

29 September 2009

Article in Darlington & Stockton Times, Friday 25th September

National tour first, then half-way around the world for Hullabaloo 12.10pm Friday 25th September 2009

THIRTY years is a good innings for a provincial drama company, but a comparatively young age for someone to be its creative producer.

The 30th anniversary of the Darlington company which used to be known as CTC - newly-styled as Theatre Hullabaloo - has coincided with its chief executive, Miranda Thain, arriving at the same landmark birthday.

Read on...

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Making a Hullabaloo about our New Name!

04 September 2009

Making a Hullabaloo about our New Name!

In 2009, our 30th birthday year, CTC Theatre becomes Theatre Hullabaloo. So, what is in a name? For Cleveland Theatre Company Ltd, who have been making theatre for audiences across the North East for the last 30 years and specifically for children and young people since 1994, our name is very important and well known across the region, but despite that everyone felt it was time for a change.

"Long consultations with staff, stakeholders and our schools led to a consensus that CTC Theatre was confusing as our ties with Cleveland dated back a very long time and were no longer really relevant, so our birthday year gave us the perfect opportunity to reinvent ourselves", said Anna Harris, who is managing CTC's rebrand.

"We all agreed, however, that it was important to recognise our regional identity in our new name, so we compiled long lists of possibilities and then when Miranda came up with Theatre Hullabaloo and we learnt that Hullabaloo came from North East dialect, we knew we'd found our new name!"

Over the next few months, Theatre Hullabaloo will be launching our new identity in a variety of different ways across the region and beyond - watch this space!

Hullabaloo : (from NE and Scots dialects)

Noisy excitement or fuss
A performance, celebration or other noisy event
A loud noise made in protest
Widespread excitement
An intervention used to hush a child (balloo, as in lullaby)

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Press Enquiries for Beneath The Banyan Tree

01 September 2009

For all press enquiries for Beneath the Banyan Tree, press ticket requests, and to arrange interviews please contact Duncan Clarke (Duncanclarke PR) on 01904 345 247/07880 893 750 or email 

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