HAVE you ever wondered why, when the Moon is full, the shadow of a Hare is cast across its face?
If so, discover more when Hoglets Theatre’s Gemma Curry presents The Hare In The Moon at the Storytelling Circle, an enchanting wooded theatre space in the Museum Gardens, York, on Sunday.
“When a stranger wanders into the woods, all the animals try to help them, but Hare has no gift to give. How far will she go to make another happy?” asks York performer-writer Gemma, the Hoglets founder, as she hosts 30-minute performances at 11.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm.
Hoglets Theatre will take Sunday’s audiences on a magical journey for all the family, exploring the true meaning of kindness through a combination of interactive storytelling, puppetry and live music in an original play by Gemma based on an old folk tale .
“Please note, this is an outdoor event in a natural setting, so my advice is to dress for all weathers, and feel free to bring picnic blankets and cushions to make yourself comfortable,” she says. “The show is suitable for children aged three to 11 and all children must be accompanied by an adult.”
Should you be unfamiliar with the Storytelling Circle, Gemma says: “I didn’t know about that space until my children ran into it one day! It feels very private but it’s open, so it can be a nice, safe experience for our Sunday performances.”
The Hare In The Moon is “brand new-ish”. “I first did it as a Zoom show in March 2021, working with a London company called Onceupona Children’s Theatre, who run a children’s theatre festival, but when that couldn’t go ahead, they got in touch with companies to ask if they’d like to do shows on Zoom,” she says.
“I ended up doing one last March, then one for Christmas, then Easter, and so The Hare And The Moon was done for that one. It’s now going from being performed and recorded at the end of our bed, under the covers, at home to being staged in this beautiful outdoor space.”
The text remains the same. “We used a lot of projection and shadow puppetry on Zoom to show the animals, and this time, in the Storytelling Circle, it will be more physical with me as the storyteller, basing myself on an old Greek storyteller, Clotho,” says Gemma.
“She was the Greek goddess of omens and the patron saint of washer women apparently, so I’ll be dressed as a washer woman with a beautiful costume by Julia Smith, who designed the costumes for Playhouse Creatures, my first Hedgepig Theatre show in 2012.”
Gemma will take the washer-woman imagery further. “I’ll come on stage with all these different cleaning products that will became different animals at various points in the show,” she says.
“The lovely thing with children is that you can say ‘this is an otter’ and they will suspend disbelief immediately. They can also be your warmest or harshest critic and they’ll tell you what they think there and then!
“That’s the thing I missed when we couldn’t perform to live audiences: that immediacy of reaction that theatre needs, which is both fantastic and yet terrifying as they won’t even wait for a break to say ‘this is rubbish!’.
“I love the way that children will take things as a given, but also question things at the same time. It keeps you on your toes.
“Children have a depth of knowledge nowadays that I didn’t have as a child, and they know when they’re being patronised, so you treat them as you would an adult audience. It’s great to have them there to bounce the show off.”
The story in Gemma’s performance is drawn from an old Buddhist parable that believes the Moon has been watching the world since time began, accumulating stories to tell.
“I’d never thought, ‘there’s a hare in the moon’ until I came across the story when I was doing a Zoom project for York Explore library, but if you look really, really closely – it doesn’t have to be the full moon, but bigger than a crescent moon – you can see the outline of a hare, even if the Moon is waxing or waning,” she says.
“The story is so lovely, and at the time I was writing the script, it was just so appropriate because it’s about the importance of being kind to each other, and how we work best when we work together even when we’re apart, like we’ve had to be during the lockdowns, which is a lovely message to children. It was my favourite story that I did for Zoom and it has my favourite puppet too!”
The chance to perform in the Museum Gardens emerged from another Gemma project. “I got in touch with York Museums Trust, who I’d been working for with Lara Pattison [York teacher, actor and home-schooling science communicator] for their family-friendly scripts, getting the chance to walk around the Castle Museum on our own!
“So, I asked if I could use the Storytelling Circle to do three shows in one day, and the trust was brilliant to me, saying ‘Yes’.”
Looking ahead, coming next from Hoglets Theatre will be a 19-date Christmas tour of Yorkshire libraries, presenting The Snow Bear, based on the Norwegian folk tale East Of The Sun And West Of The Noon. Look out for Explore York shows at York Explore library, Acomb, Tang Hall and Clifton, as well as visits to Scarborough, Northallerton and Rotherham, with more details to follow.
Hoglets Theatre in The Hare In The Moon, Storytelling Circle, Museum Gardens, York, Sunday, 11.30am, 1pm and 3pm. Box office: eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-hare-in-the-moon-tickets-175292954947.
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