Development at The Bike Shed

Since creating work at the Worboys Productions Theatre Farm Retreat we’ve been developing ‘Ugly Duckling & Other Tales’ at the Bike Shed Theatre’s Unit Space in Exeter. We had a lot to think about after the feedback we received on the farm and we got straight to work. On Saturday we reworked on the opening section of the show and then presented our work to Emily Souter Johnson, The Bike Shed’s Framework Producer who gave us some great ideas for how to make the piece even more relevant for young audiences. It’s been fantastic to work with Emily at the Bike Shed to receive feedback on our work and support as artists to develop new work, with freedom to experiment without fear of failure.

Sunday saw us working with our Dramaturg, India Isaac who, once again, focused on making sure the piece was working for our target age group. Firstly, we showed India the opening of the piece so she could gather the tone of the piece. From here, we discussed how we could introduce improvisation to the audience from the first scene of the piece. Then, we worked through the Old Lady scene and George improvised different scenarios in  under the direction of India. This was really useful and gave a new energy to the scene, which we were struggling to find. We then proceeded to work through the piece, tightening movement and character intentions- something we were struggling to do without an inside eye. India wanted us to put more fun and playfulness into the performance so we experimented with different scenarios as a trio of performers. We specifically wanted to work with India on this project due to her experience in working with our target age group 3-7 and her experience in devising new theatre for this age. It was great having her in the rehearsal room as she added some elements to the performance that will appeal to this audience especially.  Yoy can hear more about her experience and see George playing with some of our puppets here:

Today we’ve been consolidating the feedback we’ve received and checking-in with how the current show relates to our original aims for the project. We’ve been experimenting with the use of technology to make a more specific reference to the effects of Instagram culture on young people’s body image and the ever-growing threat of cyber-bullying. This involved us using mobile phones during the ‘Wild Birds’ scene, which added a lovely effect to the scene and really brings it up to date. We’ve also been working on the overall look of the piece to bring a more coherent image to the world we’re presenting. George now has a fantastic costume (a very dashing dungarees) and Emily and I are experimenting with wearing denim, which adds to the farm-yard image of the piece. We’ll be showing our work-in-progress at the Unit on South Street in Exeter on Wednesday at 2.30pm. Please do send us a message if you’re free and we hope to see many of you there!

Helen x

Final few days on the farm…

Alas! Already our time on the Worboys Productions Theatre Farm Retreat draws to a close, but the last few days have been super productive! We spent the day time devising new material, Emily composing songs based on our given brief and George and I improvising and devising scenes based on the original Hans Christian Anderson text. Once we’d come up with an idea that we thought might work, we would then write this into the poem and decide which sections would be in rhyme and which would be in narration. When we’d devised a scene, we’d then come back together with Emily and put the music to the on-stage action, working out where best to have the music.

We followed this process until we reached the end of the story, then we started the task of connecting all of the scenes we had made together. This was a tricky task, as some of the scene changes, especially with regard to the puppetry, were complicated. After several hours smoothing out the knots, we’d come up with a good system, and what felt like a piece! We got to work rehearsing the material in preparation for our first work in progress showing, which was today.

imageimageIt was really useful for us to have an outside eye during the work in progress showing and to receive some feedback on the project. The response was really positive, which was lovely to hear and encouraging for the week of devising ahead. The most difficult thing George and I have found during the process is who we are as storytellers and now we fit into the overall framework. There were suggestions for all three of us to interact together more and this is something we will start to do on Saturday in the Bike Shed space. It was lovely to hear that the puppets played well and were liked by the audience. Also the amount of different types of puppetry that feature in the show were well received, with many of the scene changes noted as smooth (all the hard work paid off there).

So where do we go from here? We will access in detail all of the notes given and try to find solutions to some of the problems we have encountered. We will work on character in more depth and hone in on some of our puppetry skills.

After a productive and positive start, we are so excited for the week ahead. Massive thanks go to Sam Worboys and the Worboys Productions Theatre Farm Retreat for having us back to develop our work. It really is a brilliant place to focus without distraction, surrounded by gorgeous countryside.

Take a look at our Twitter for further updates and don’t forget, we have a shadow puppetry workshop taking place on the 5th August at the Exeter Phoenix as part of the Unpacked Children’s theatre festival. Tickets available from:

Thanks for reading,

Helen X


The Ugly Duckling & Other Tales R&D is a project supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, with project partnership from Worboys Productions and the Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter.

Two more days at the Farm!

I must first apologise for the lack of a post yesterday; it can be a bit hit and miss with the signal here in rural Suffolk- but it’s perfect atmosphere for us to devise without distraction. Our musician Emily arrived yesterday and we had such a great first day working with her in the rehearsal room. Straight away, the work we had made came to life with the addition of music, especially the shadow puppetry sections. Working with her Ukele we set Emily the task of creating some songs using some of our text. The result was something we can’t wait to show you!

We managed to create scenes up until our ‘ugly’ duckling meets some wild ducks. we had a really productive day and planned the following days activities.

The format of today was similar to yesterday- we woke up and after a brief warm-up we progressed with devising the story. We developed songs from the previous day and then worked together to create new movement sequences. The scene with the wild ducks was created using a mixture of sound and puppetry and worked particularly well. We spent a great deal of time devising the part of the story where the ‘ugly’ duck meets an old lady, played by George. Emily has written a lovely little song for this section, to accompany the scenes on stage. Something George and I have developed since previously visiting the piece is how to use shadow puppetry and live action to best effect. We are still experimenting with this but have found some lovely moments with the new puppets and addition of cellophane to add colour in different moments.

We have will be finishing today with some script writing and puppet making, after a meal together of course.

Hopefully there will be more videos tomorrow!

Thanks for following our journey,

Helen x

We are back at the Farm!

Yesterday we arrived at the Worboys Productions Theatre Farm Retreat to start week 1 of developing ‘The Ugly Duckling & Other Tales’. After a rather hot car journey in this glorious sunshine, we stopped off in Bury St Edmunds to pick up some last few bits to prepare for the week. Upon our arrival at the farm, we then set up the barn space and planned our week, looking at what we would do each day. It was decided that today we would start to experiment with some of the puppets we have made, and also begin to make some new shadow puppets based on some of the ideas from our workshop at Brixington School.  We started the morning developing a scene between the farm animals, discussing the appearance of the ‘Duckling’. This lead to us developing a clear distinction between rhyming speech and non-rhyming narration, something which we are thinking about for our narrator characters.

In the afternoon, we cracked on with making our shadow puppets and have included some of the children’s designs (a house with an opening door). The main difference between our previous shadow puppets and our newly developed ones is that we have used coloured cellophane which makes for a more detailed and interesting puppet visually. We have made some scenery for some scene changes too, which we can’t wait to try tomorrow!

Our musician Emily arrives tomorrow and we can’t wait to introduce her to our world. We are looking forward to experimenting with creating a soundscape for the piece, including some continuous sound, and hopefully, some of our trade mark catchy tunes!

We’ll be posting every day, so pop back tomorrow for more updates on our process! On Thursday we’ll also be performing a work in progress showing at the Farm, so get in touch if you are in the South East and wild like to come along!

Helen x


Ugly Duckling R&D: Inspiring Stories from Schools

Our Research and development project has been heating up this week, with the first stage being the delivery of shadow puppetry workshops to Brixington Academy in Exmouth. We wanted to teach the pupils there a little about the techniques of making shadow puppets and using them to tell stories in a theatrical way. This also gave us an opportunity to show them a bit of our developing Ugly Duckling adaptation and to explore the wider themes of the story. It was really encouraging to see that the pupils all understood the underlying moral of the Ugly Duckling: that we should accept people for what they are and celebrate difference in others.

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A view of our Scratch performance at The Bike Shed, which we presented again today.


We put the classes into smaller groups and helped them make their own shadow puppets to create small stories inspired by the Ugly Duckling. They were really inspired by this method of storytelling and took to the task with enthusiasm. At the end of the day all of the groups presented their work. The content of the pieces ranged from comical retellings of fairy tales, to a thought provoking and rather moving story of a soldier leaving for war. All of the pupils seemed to enjoy working with this art form and expressing themselves creatively and the staff were pleased to see their students get a chance to perform. In terms of our own development and the creation of our show, we’ve seen how effective shadow puppets can be in telling stories to younger audiences and range of tones which can be expressed with this medium. Also we saw how this story can resonant with younger audiences in a mixture of ways. The group who decided to present a World War One story were inspired by the Ugly Duckling’s sense of isolation and felt that this resonated with how a soldier might feel when deciding to go to war. Many of the pieces focused on the section of the story where the ugly duckling is bullied by the other animals in the farm yard, with many groups including a hero figure that saved the duckling and accepted his difference. We’ve decided that we want to include more humour in the piece as this seemed really effective with some of the pupil’s own work and we’ve got some more ides to develop the style of our puppets. We’ll be developing the show over two weeks at Warboys Productions Theatre Farm Retreat and Exeter Bike Shed’s Unit space, but before that we have plenty of work to do on the script and the set. Thanks again to Brixington School for hosting our workshops today and to the fantastic pupils who took part.

Dropping Anchor in Barnstaple

We’ve had a fantastic week in Barnstaple as part of the 10th Anniversary Fringe Theatre Fest. Traveller’s Tales played in the Baptist Hall for three performance and was well received by audiences young and old.


Taking a train to India. Thanks to David T Green and Fringe Theatre Fest for this great photo.

As is the way with festivals, we also managed to watch a number of productions from other companies, some based in Devon and others from around the country. Particular highlights have to be the darkly funny 9ft² from ‘A Hammier Basis,’ the insightful Lyrically Minded from ‘Mishmash Productions,’ and the zany rom-com What’s the Mater? A Comedy About Physics from, ‘The Last Baguette Theatre Company.’ Thanks to the charismatic and talented Bill Buffery  and Gill Nathanson of ‘Multi Story Theatre Company,’ who organised the festival. Travellers’ Tales is having a rest for now but Above Bounds are still very much active. As our regular followers will know, we are soon going into Research and Development for The Ugly Ducking & Other Tales. If you want to stay up-to-date with our projects and performances, give us a like on Facebook and follow us on Twitter . Hope to catch Barnstaple again next year. Bon Voyage!

Egg-Citing News (Excuse the pun)

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Photo by Lina & Tom – Wedding & Event Photography from the Worboys Productions Theatre Farm Retreat 2016.

We can finally announce that our next project, led by Helen, will be supported by Arts Council England and the National Lottery. We are developing our performance of ‘The Ugly Duckling & Other Tales’ that we began working on whilst on the Worboys Productions Theatre Farm Retreat last Summer. For this stage of development, we will be working with The Bike Shed Theatre and Sam Worboys as well as a host of other great artists including Emily Snee, India Isaac, Luke Jeffery (Wandering Tiger) and Clare Willcocks Art. We are also performing UnPacked Family Theatre Festival 2016 and Exmouth Library, as well as working with a local school in Exmouth to help us develop the piece.
Many thanks go to Sam Worboys, PaddleBoat Theatre Company, The Bike Shed Theatre, Dan Baker, Rosie McKay for helping us get this project off the ground, with advice and support. And thanks to Rooted Moon International Theatre Festival and Theatrefullstop .
We’re sure you’ll love what you see! More updates to follow but for now, it’s off to Fringe TheatreFest with Travellers’ Tales…

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Until the next time…

It’s been just over a week since our last performance at the Plymouth Fringe Festival and what a festival it was! We had a brilliant turn out for both of our performances of Travellers’ Tales (we hope you enjoyed it if you came along) and we managed to watch lots of the other artists too. George managed to see over 20 other shows- so as you can imagine, it was a rather busy week for the both of us!

We were pleased with the positive responses we received to Travellers’ Tales, that the piece captured the playful style children have when playing together and created a nostalgic atmosphere. We were pleased that these things were discussed with us,  as in our original artistic aims for Travellers’ Tales we discussed creating something that adults would enjoy just as much as children; a piece that was playful and left the audience with a smile on their face and a warm feeling. It was great to meet our audience after the shows during our ‘Meet the Characters’. This gave us the opportunity to speak directly to our target age range (3-7) and find out what sections of the piece they enjoyed the most. The puppets went down really well too and lots of children enjoyed the section where John and Sally visit India. I feel that this section is particularly enjoyable due to the supporting music, arranged by Alice Brown and written by George and I.  This scene has a slower pace to both Egypt and the Caribbean, allowing the audience to really engage with the stories we are telling and the atmosphere we are creating.

Our next stop is Barnstaple where we are performing at Fringe TheatreFest. Is there anything we are going to change before then? Well, not drastically, but we are going to have a look at introducing some comedy back into the Caribbean scene and play with the interactive elements of the performance. We are going to experiment with the characters of John and Sally and see where moments of silliness can be added back into the piece, amongst the moments of storytelling. We are also going to work on the mermaid story again and see if we can add in some bubbles, as well as another interactive moment with the audience. We have one more rehearsal day next Tuesday at TR2 in Plymouth before we head off to Barnstaple for Fringe TheatreFest, so we will keep you updated! We will also be doing some promotional 5 minute performances in Barnstaple in the lead up to our shows, so perhaps we will see you there?

Coming this week is also some SUPER EXCITING news about our next project…

Thanks for reading and check back for further updates!


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One show down, one show to go

We performed our first show of Travellers’ Tales as part of the Plymouth Fringe in The Barbican Theatre yesterday and it went down a storm! The children who watched the show really engaged with the story and the characters. We think a few of the adults in the audience might have had fun too.

We have one show to go in Plymouth on Saturday, before the festival is over. In between our own work, we’ve managed to catch few other shows as well, and it’s shaping up to be a very eclectic, and high standard Fringe.

Hope to see some of you in the audience on Saturday at 12:00pm. Tickets for Under 14s are £5! Book now.

It’s the Week of the Plymouth Fringe!

The final touches are being made to the puppets, and the costumes are ironed; that’s right, we’re ready to go! Time marches on fast, and with one final days rehearsal in TR2 (The Theatre Royal Plymouth’s second space) we are all set to perform Travellers’ Tales this Tuesday at 12.30pm. First stop, is our technical rehearsal this afternoon where we’re working with local theatre students Noah Jones and Julia Froud. We’ve been in touch with Noah and Julia throughout the rehearsal process so that they could design the lighting and programme our sound cues. This has been rather exciting for us to witness as we don’t normally work with a technical team whilst devising a show. Noah came and watched a run through of our show last week and it was good to know that we were all on the same page… this one! We’re thrilled to share the bill with so many other exciting and interesting shows and this looks to be an enjoyable and insightful festival. We’re itching to get started, and will be updating you all on how the week goes via twitter and facebook, give us a follow @abovebounds and hope to see some you are our performances this week.

Tickets can be purchased here:

Under 14s get £5 tickets!