Sunday, 25 January 2009


It's been a busy time, what with playing in the pit band for the Threepenny Opera – rehearsals, dress rehearsals and then six shows in five days, each show over three hours long. Great fun and more on that experience later. But on Saturday I headed off to Cambridge to play for a very different show called Claytime, presented by Indefinite Articles. Aimed at children aged between three and six, but watched and thoroughly enjoyed by older children and adults too, it combines physical theatre, puppetry and audience participation.

For this show I play clarinet while the audience assembles and settles; nothing in particular but fairly happy and lyrical in a major key. When the show begins I tend to use items from my treasured collection of odd and unusual instruments for spot sounds and moods. The two actors relate to each other and learn to negotiate in the manner of very young children. I've seen the show once and played for it three times but still find it very funny and entirely believable, a response shared by the all the audience, young and old. This part of the show involves playing with clay and getting increasingly covered in the stuff. When water is introduced it gets very messy indeed. But this allows very fine modelling. "We can make anything! What shall we make?"

And so begins the audience participation. The children suggest things to make that are woven into a story. While they are collaborating on the simple (and usually outrageous) script with one of the actors, the other performer is making models of the characters and scenery. They tell the story with models, with occasional sonic accompaniment, and then the show is over and they take their bows. But that's not all. Now they roll back a strip of the tarpaulin that protects the floor, revealing a lump of clay for each child to play with. The resulting models are photographed and posted on a website with the name of the story. Take a look at

News! I am running a music games workshop called Games With Sound in Norwich on March 1st. For more details go to and download the information document. There is a 10% discount if you book before the end of January.

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