Badapple tackle global warming in Christmas show The Snow Dancer

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre’s Christmas show, The Snow Dancer. All pictures: Karl Andre

BADAPPLE Theatre Company set out on the road tomorrow with their Christmas show, The Snow Dancer, a tale to perk the interest of teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

Written and directed by the Green Hammerton company’s artistic director, Kate Bramley, the setting is The Great Wood, where something is awry. The animals are desperate for sleep, but with the onset of global warming and climate change, the weather is just too warm.

The show’s intrepid heroes, played by Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor, decide they must seek out the mysterious Snow Dancer if there is any chance of ever making it snow for Christmas.

Ahead of tomorrow’s preview show at Hunsingore Village Hall, Charles Hutchinson puts director Kate Bramley in the hot seat.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham with one of the puppets in The Snow Dancer

What prompted you to write The Snow Dancer, Kate? 

“I started work on this show in 2017 with composer Jez Lowe. There are many stories of indigenous peoples around the globe who had the tradition of dancing to bring on the snow for the season, but as far as we know there are no surviving stories of actual Snow Dancers!”

Were you inspired by any existing Christmas stories?

“I’ve worked on a lot of Christmas stories in the past, so even though this one is completely original and doesn’t follow an existing story, there are still recognisable elements.

“We have Ida the March Hare, who is a meddling villain, for example. But, if anything, it’s a classic ‘quest’ story, where the children head off through the woods to save the world and encounter a few setbacks on the way.”

Ida, the March Hare: the meddling villain in The Snow Dancer

Does writing a Christmas story make different demands of you as a writer, given certain audience expectations?

“I suppose over the years we have created a Badapple style of storytelling that is open to audiences of all ages, so for the family Christmas shows I just have to make sure that the structure is suitable for younger viewers, with lots of things going on.

“We have some beautiful – and very cheeky – woodland puppets in this one, so hopefully that will help keep the kids entertained!

“I think there’s a Pixar animation and commercial pantomime expectation nowadays that tells Christmas stories on a grand scale, which we can’t necessarily do! But I work for a number of months with our designer, Catherine Dawn, to create little ‘magic moments’ of theatre that run throughout the story. There may be some surprises for audiences!”

Hedgehog incoming: Danny Mellor with another of Badapple’s puppets for The Snow Dancer

Global warming is the political issue of our day, even if Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s place was taken by a dripping block of ice on the Leaders’ debate on Channel 4. What impact can a play make at this time? 

“I’m not sure that any one play can make an impact. But it’s about contributing to a conversation, I think. As a company, we often re-use sets and costume; rarely buy anything new and have our power from renewable sources; actively recycle and try to avoid wastage.

“But we’re realising that we just do all that quietly and don’t particularly discuss the issues with our audiences.

“What has changed over the past couple of years since I started work on this project is that it is young people globally who are at the forefront of the campaign for change. And it feels like we should all take them seriously. And that’s why the heroes in our story, Sol and Aurora, are 17…and they save the world! Simple!”

Anastasia Benham: playing an intrepid hero in Badapple Theatre Company’s Christmas show, The Snow Dancer

As a company that travels by road, from village to village, to provide “theatre on your doorstep”, how do you go eco?

“As part of our ambition for this project, I asked Catherine and John [Badapple stage and lighting designer John Bramley] to create an eco-set that was made from re-claimed materials, using partners like the Community Furniture Store and Community RePaint among others.

“But, more than that, Catherine has created a forest setting out of ‘human junk’! It’s an incredibly beautiful and atmospheric design with donated ladders as trees, broken umbrella canopies and much more. So not only is it a recycled set but it also makes a statement about re-cycling or up-cycling. She’s very clever!

“The final piece of our funding for this project was for our team to assess our sustainability as an organisation and create a report as to what we might do in the future to further decrease our carbon footprint.”

What did that report involve?

“We collected some data last year that showed the percentages of audiences that came to our shows on foot, from under a mile radius, and it’s a pretty high number. So, the next part of our process is to look at our touring (driving) footprint as well as the audiences (lower) footprint and see how much further we can go.

“John has already started to explore electric vehicles but there isn’t currently a vehicle that would fit our needs and run on electric. So, we could run two electric vehicles but, of course, there is a carbon cost in the production of those vehicles.

“Anyway, it’s an ongoing debate, but we’re delighted that we’re having the chance to discuss these elements in detail and hopefully by next summer we’ll have an even more effective strategy! It’s a work in progress for everyone, I think.” 

Let it snow: Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor in Badapple’s The Snow Dancer

How do you balance humour and a more serious message in the play?

“For anyone who knows my writing, they’ve probably cottoned on to the fact that I’m usually delivering social politics by stealth! It’s humour first and then perhaps at the end of the show the audiences will think over the story and maybe ask some questions of themselves at a later stage.”

Who is the Snow Dancer and why is the Snow Dancer mysterious, or had that better remain a mystery?!

“The Snow Dancer is one of four spirit dancers that, back before the dawn of time, was responsible for dancing to bring in the winter season. Over the centuries the other dancers have retired, and only the Snow Dancer remains.

“But with the weather so unseasonably warm in the Great Wood, we can only conclude he’s gone on strike! But he’s hiding somewhere and our heroes must find him and persuade him to dance to get the weather back to normal, so that all the animals can get some sleep. That’s an old Badapple legend, by the way!”

Will Anastasia Benham’s intrepid hero be outfoxed? Find out in The Snow Dancer

What would be your Christmas Day message to the nation in 2019?

“Choose love. Try to scale down the wastage on the un-necessary a bit and focus on supporting your loved ones and those in need in the community. Our Christmas charities this year are Safe Passage where we are founder members and also The Woodland Trust. Maybe some of our audiences might choose to support them as well.” 

What are your New Year wishes for Badapple?

“I want to congratulate my team really. We’ve worked through a difficult couple of years financially with some great shows under our belts and everyone is still smiling! We’re 21 in 2020 so we’re officially a grown-up company now! Hopefully we’ll keep entertaining and inspiring the communities who so kindly invite us into their midst.”

Badapple Theatre Company present The Snow Dancer from December 5 to 29.

Campaign badges: Anastasia Benham in Badapple’s climate change cautionary tale, The Snow Dancer

Tour dates for December 2019:

December 5, Hunsingore Village Hall, LS22 5HY, preview show; box office, 01423 339168.

6, Harpham & Lowthorpe Village Hall. YO25 4QZ; 07867 692616.

7, Bempton & Buckton Community Hall, YO15 1HS; 0844 500 5121/07849 639650

8, Sand Hutton & Claxton Village Hall YO41 1LL; 01904 468525 / 468001

10, Danby Wiske Village Hall, DL7 0LY; 01609 771117.

11, Skipsea Village Hall, YO25 8TJ; 01262 469714.

12, Dalton le Dale Parish Hall, SR7 8QP; 0191 581 3726.

13, Biddulph Moor Village Hall, ST8 7HP; 01782 523573.

14, Fairfield Village Hall, B61 9LZ; 07762 749943.

15, Bubbenhall Village Hall, CV8 3BD; 02476 305931.

17, Appletreewick Village Hall, BD23 6DD; 01423 339168.

18, Stillingfleet Village Institute, YO19 6SJ; 01423 339168.

19, Portholme Church, Selby, YO8 4QH; 01423 339168 or

20, Green Hammerton Village Hall, YO26 8AB; 01423 339168.

21, Bingley Arts Centre, BD16 2LZ; 01274 567983 or

22, Campsall Village Hall, to be confirmed.

27, Markington War Memorial Institute, HG3 3NR; 01423 771748 or 01423 339168.

28, St Alban’s Church, Hull, HU6 8SA; 07401 179 927.

29, Yarm Fellowship Hall, TS15 9BT; 01642 888786.