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!


Seeking, finding, things you’ve never seen before…

George and I have been rather busy over the last month, preparing for our performances of Travellers’ Tales and for our Summer development of The Ugly Duckling & Other Tales (exciting announcement soon to follow).

Over the last week, we’ve been rehearsing at the MAC in Birmingham, thanks to Somewhere_to a scheme which gives 16-25 year olds access to free spaces to use for their arts projects. The space was fantastic- it allowed us the chance to rehearse and redevelop scenes which we had experimented with back in April and we could achieve so much with a space all to ourselves. There were other exciting additions to our Travellers’ Tales rehearsals this week- firstly, the puppetry was finished so we had chance to work with the  puppets in the space and secondly we had some music. Back in April, George and I devised some songs but felt we could do with some piano accompaniment to outline the piece and add to the action where appropriate. Alice Brown, a talented music student at Birmingham university with a gift for playing the piano, stepped in to help us out, arranging the songs we had developed. These accompaniments sound fantastic and are exactly what we hoped they would’ve been. We can’t wait for you to hear! Alice also wrote some music to add tension throughout the piece, including a rather lovely song on the recorder for when John and Sally arrive in Egypt!

At the end of a rather busy week of developing new sections for the show and rehearsing already existing ones- we have our show and we can’t wait for you to see what we’ve produced!

On Saturday 14th May, we performed the first 15 minutes at the ACTA centre, part of the Bristol Sourhbank Arts Trail. This was an incredible event and we were so happy to be asked to perform alongside Brave Bold Drama an other fantastic artists, including storyteller William Tell. The audience response was also lovely, the children were really engaged with the piece, with some below our target audience (3-7) enjoying it as much as those above! One mother said that our piece was the first theatre her child had seen and that he had loved it! Such a brilliant and encouraging comment for us to hear after a busy week of development!

This week we are finishing the puppets and rehearsing in Plymouth with our technicians, as it’s not long until our Plymouth Fringe shows! We were out promoting the show at the Pirate Festival today, do give us a wave if you see us 🙂

For now, here’s a little teaser trailer for you but keep checking back for more updates!


Global stories for the small stage

We’ve been revisiting our show Travellers’ Tales which we created for outdoor performances and events last summer and are now developing to perform at The Plymouth Fringe Festival and Fringe Theatre Fest in Barnstable this summer. Adapting a show from the field and beach to the stage carries with it several responsibilities. We found that the over-arching storyline needed to be stronger and have more of a journey and that our characters (John and Sally) had to have a more rounded set of wants and desires. However, this phase of working on the show has given us greater possibilities to use sound, lights and a wider use of props. One of our developments has been to create three hand held puppets to act as the storytellers in each of the locations John and Sally visit. This new energy that the puppets bring has been a fantastic addition to work with in the rehearsal room and something I’m sure will soon become a favourite of ours.

There’s still some work to be done before the show is ready, although we will be previewing work at the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail before the final shows in June. But what is clear is that we have a show with heart and a desire to awaken (or reawaken) the imagination of our audiences. Theatre making is a labour of love and soon we can share this love with you (we can’t wait!) Keep up to date with our activities via Facebook and twitter and by signing up to our mailing list. We hope to see you in our audience soon.

Travellers’ Tales will be performed at the Plymouth Fringe Festival 2016.

The Barbican Theatre-

Tuesday 31st May at 12.30PM

Saturday 4th June at 12.00PM.

Tickets are £8 and can be purchased via

Also performing at Fringe TheatreFest, The Baptist Hall.

Thursday 23rd June (5:00pm)

Friday 24th June (4.00pm)

Saturday 25th June (2.45pm).

Tickets available from 2nd June at


Exciting News!

We are so pleased to announce that we will be performing Travellers’ Tales at the Plymouth Fringe festival 2016! We are so excited to have been selected alongside some fabulous artists. We will be performing at 12.30 PM on Tuesday 31st May and at 12.00 PM on Saturday 4th June at The Barbican Theatre, Plymouth! Tickets will go on sale soon, so we will keep you updated.
For now, take a look at the fantastic programme which takes place from Monday 30th – Saturday 4th June 2016:

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Travellers’ Tales Tour Dates 2016:

John says that there’s no such thing as mermaids. Sally wants to convince him otherwise. Join these budding explorer’s on their quest. Hear the sounds of Egypt, see the animals from India and discover pirate stories from the Caribbean as John and Sally re-imagine traditional tales from around the World.
Suitable for all the family!
Running Time: 40 minutes (Plus meet the characters after the show!)

May 14th, 12.15 PM and 16.45 PM.
Plymouth Fringe Festival, The Barbican Theatre:
Tuesday 31st May, 12.30 PM
Saturday 4th June 12.00 PM.
Fringe TheatreFest Barnstaple, The Baptist Hall:
Thursday 23rd June 5.00 PM
Friday 24th June 4.00 PM
Saturday 25th June 2.45 PM

Script Development

I’ve just come back from a week in Birmingham working with George to re-develop the script for Travellers’ Tales. We first performed Travellers’ Tales last year at Brixfest before taking it to some schools in Exeter, Devon. The piece is a light-hearted comedy for children aged 3-7 and their families, taking the audience on a journey with John and Sally, two hopeless explorers, as they search for a flute, a feather and a piece of treasure. Having worked without dialogue during our development of Portrait for the Rooted Moon International Theatre festival in 2015, we wanted to simplify the script for Travellers’ Tales and apply some of the techniques we had developed. The piece is aimed at children and throughout our process, we work with our audience in mind. Over the week, we experimented with sound and music, developing sound for each of the new locations John and Sally visit. This was inspired by a fabulous workshop with Verity Standen that I took part in at the Bike Shed Theatre last weekend, working with voice and music. As John and Sally travel the world, I thought that we could use sound to our advantage and certainly our explorations were fruitful. We also played with the use of rhyme in the script, when to use it and when to not. I’m really looking forward to getting the script back on it’s feet in early April and seeing how sound works practically in the performance.

Travellers’ Tales will be performed at Fringe TheatreFest in Barnstaple this Summer, as well as at other fringe festivals in the South West. We are currently taking bookings for KS1 schools performances, so please do get in touch if you’d like us to visit your school in the Summer Term and I can send through the production information.

I am also still planning for our development of ‘The Ugly Duckling & Other Tales’ and am currently in the process of sending off applications for our development later in the year.