On the 13th of July, I was lucky enough to be able to go with Simon (our Creative Director) and Katie (our Artistic Director) to one of the final workshops for '5 Children and It'! It was at the Plough Arts Centre in Torrington, which is one of the locations where we perform our show. This was the first time I had been to Torrington, so it was really nice to actually see where the magic happens - though Katie and Simon seemed a little perplexed that they were there when it wasn't dark and snowy!
We had been invited by The Open School of Creative Arts and Wellbeing, which is a group that aims to make safe spaces for people of all ages to be creative and gain all the benefits that come along with it. It was amazing to be able to take our workshops out of the Exeter area and to one of the places where we'll be performing the shows later this year.
In previous workshops, Katie and Simon have worked with the children to create all sorts of things that might make their way into the show, like the wishes, the characters of the 5 children themselves, and the Psammead, but we were having trouble coming up with the bad guy, as after all, every story needs a villain! So we decided to ask Torrington for help.
After introducing ourselves and playing some very fun warm up games - my favourite was Pass the Face (I'm sure you can guess what that entails!) - we started transforming our very own Simon Hall into a bad guy. This was pretty hard, as Simon is about as far from a bad guy as you could be, but with direction and suggestion from the children, he brought to life three very different characters.
The first was Mr Bunny David Creepy-Cranky-Demon, or Bunny for short. We didn't end up exploring Bunny in the workshops, but I personally would have loved to know where they got their name from!
The second was Mapoosa Mapissa Mapassa, who turned out to be a scientist who had created a potion that, when drunk, turned him into a chicken-snake that turned people to stone when he looked at them and pooped a lot. This was a difficult one to bring to life, mostly because I have no idea what a chicken-snake would be, but I think Simon managed it quite admirably!
The third was Sir Grunt, and it was Sir Grunt that both groups of children decided to explore a little bit further.
A brave volunteer from each group lay down on the long piece of paper we had brought and let the rest of the group draw their silhouette. Then the children started turning this silhouette into Sir Grunt. It turns out that Sir Grunt was a very proud grandfather who had grandchildren he loved more than anything in the entire world. He was also a veteran and had a number of scars to prove it. He wore a suit with a bowtie, even if it did have a few holes in the trousers, and had an incredible six-pack - that he liked to show off by not wearing a shirt.
But the most incredible part was his top hat.
The top hat started off quite normal, even if it did potentially have magic powers, but then it started to grow. And I mean that quite literally. By the end of the workshop, Sir Grunt's hat was taller than the rest of his body! And was hiding at least one chainsaw!
Both groups had excellent ideas for Sir Grunt, and our Costume Designer will be using the artwork made by the children as inspiration, so hopefully, you'll be able to spot some of your work in the show itself! I personally will be upset if Sir Grunt and his chainsaw-hiding, impossibly large top hat don't make it into the show, but I've been promised that even if that doesn't happen, there will be plenty of ridiculousness to make up for it.
After we made Sir Grunt, obviously, we had to make the superheroes that would beat him. Everyone made up their own superhero, including their name and power - my favourite being Jeff the Firefighter, who shot fire out of their hands, fighting fire with fire!
We then put those superheroes into a situation where they had to stop Sir Grunt from doing something totally, completely, and utterly evil, like stealing candy from a baby, and asked them to show us that scene. I personally loved the use of super slow-mo to show how impressive the superheroes were when stopping Sir Grunt from completing his evil scheme.
Sadly it was about here that we had to stop, as for us, it was time for lunch.
After doing a bit of work and grabbing some incredibly yummy snacks from Sandford's Bakery across the way, we went for a wander and found an amazing view over the River Torridge, which I really recommend going to if you have a spare moment.
And then, we were back into another workshop!
This time we were working with the Plough Youth Script Writers. Carrying on the villain theme from the morning, we started by writing down all the villain tropes we could think of. These included "very polite", "mwah ha ha!", "monologues before killing you", and "sharks?".
Then using these tropes, our young writers created a speech for Sir Grunt to make when accepting his award for being the most evil villain this year.
There were some incredible ideas, such as saying thanks to the "best pet a supervillain could ask for, Dorothy Oscar Gretchen Jr, or D.O.G, my cat", saying that the reason he was evil was that his mum always made him eat cabbage and lettuce, and the EVIL Award standing for "Extremely Villainous In Life" - which is better wordplay than I could ever do! The writers then performed their speeches, showing that they were as good actors as they were writers, but I don't want to spoil the speeches too much, as we'll hopefully be able to use some of the best ideas in the show itself - so watch this space!
Unfortunately, this was the end of our time at the Plough for now, but we're really looking forward to coming back later in the year to show everybody the results of all the workshops we've done. It's shaping up to be an incredible show, with just as much ridiculousness as you'd expect from a Quirk show!
If you want to come to watch the show, either book for the Exeter Phoenix now or keep an eye out on our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to see when the tickets for the Plough come out! You can also sign up for our mailing list to be updated on what we're up to and get sneak peeks behind the scenes.
We'd love to hear if you have any more ideas for Sir Grunt, what he could be hiding in his hat or any other potential villains that we could bring into the show! Get in contact in the comments or send us a message.
Written by Hallow (Assistant Producer - They/Them)