Taking the Miki for Ashcroft’s audience of just 50

BELLA BARTOCK has been out again, this time accompanied by a responsible child to see Miki at the Ashcroft Theatre

MikiThe story of Inuit girl Miki, her friends Penguin and Polar Bear and Miki’s adventures below the sea ice as her friends fret about her safety is taken from the beautifully illustrated children’s book by Stephen Mackey.

The story has already been told by David Tennant on CBeebies, and this weekend it was brought to the stage at the Ashcroft Theatre at the Fairfield Halls.

It provided yet another demonstration of how the council’s role in the closing of the Warehouse Theatre and David Lean Cinema was short-sighted and ill-serves the borough’s arts provision: just as with so many of the “David Lean at the Fairfield” screenings, here you had a vast auditorium barely filled – with an audience of maybe 50 people in the 750-seat space.

With its use of puppetry, this was the sort of production which would have worked far better in the old Warehouse. Despite the cast’s best efforts, the large theatre was ill-suited for the intimacy of the Fresh Glory Production.

The puppets were just too small for use in Croydon’s Ashcroft, and some of the reflection of the gentle pastel shades of the original illustrations present in the production were lost in the auditorium’s vastness.

Nevertheless the young children present enjoyed the performance with many giggles and some sense of awe especially after characters became human scale.

A production photo from Miki

A production photo from Miki

While Amy Tweed was not always tuneful, the attractive and clever references to the original illustrations in the book were deft.

Thomas Gilbey’s calls as Penguin seemed a bit inane but both he and Nicola Blackwood were a delight in their interpretation of sea life below the ice.

The show was less than an hour long, so is an ideal introduction to live theatre for pre-schoolers and those of nursery school age, although accompanyng adults need to respect rules that insist in “no bad language, swearing, nudity, guns, computer games or texting”.

There may also be need for some interpretation to do on the various merits of sustainable energy sources.

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5 Responses to Taking the Miki for Ashcroft’s audience of just 50

  1. This sounds like a wonderful production ruined by short-sighted management.
    Croydon needs performing spaces of workshop proportions, both for theatre and for cinema. The Fairfield could be an ideal venue, but not – repeat not – the concert hall or the Ashcroft theatre. There are numerous rooms scattered about the complex that could be kitted out with the necessay audio, video and other equipment; rooms that could be used at other times for business or academic presentations to help defray costs.
    It’s not rocket science, but it does require someone with the determination to look beyond the dictats of myopic councillors.

    • mraemiller says:

      Mike Fox of Throgmorton Comedy seems to have done alright using one of the smaller rooms. The Ashcroft Theatre has always been a problem being both too big and too small but there are still some good theatre touring productions there ….sometimes. Not that I’ve ever been much motivated to go in quite a while but I have done. Still …many productions seem dwarfed by the size of the venue but this has been a problem since the 70s. The stage is very high which makes intimacy difficult … particularly with anything that involves breaking the 4th wall.

      “While Amy Tweed was not always tuneful”

      Ouch!

  2. croydonite says:

    This is clearly a bad programming decision on behalf of Fairfield Halls.

    However, they are working with a building which looks more like an airport terminal – inside and out. I wouldn’t go to anything there, even if it was in a smaller space. It’s expensive and not very interesting.

    Far better to get on the train to Clapham Junction (9 mins away) and go to Battersea Arts Centre – excellent programme for both adults and children and reasonably priced (including drinks and food). I don’t think I really need to say this but (I will) what we need in Croydon is a small scale studio theatre, akin to the Warehouse, but with much better programme – artists in residence, commissioned work, community work, the sky is the limit really. However, we have a council who pay themselves huge salaries and neglect the community at every level.

  3. There are different events in the various venues throughout Fairfield all the time. The smaller rooms are used for various meetings and community hires – as well as ‘Comedy Clubs’ etc. They are available for use! I am at Fairfield regularly – if you overlook the appearance of the building and the size of the spaces you will see that they really are trying their best with what they have. Clearly more investment is needed to bring the venue up to scratch and also to bring good quality productions in. Bear in mind that Fairfield is a charitable trust, and receives very little from the council for the day-to-day running of the place, nor for the artistic programme. In fact I don’t think they even get money from the Arts Council either… I saw Miki and it was a wonderful production – just a shame few other people seemed to know about it!

    • It’s true that the Fairfields receives no council money for its artistic programme.

      But it is receiving many millions of pounds of public cash, through the council, for its re-building.

      Why should Croydon Council close the David Lean Cinema and stop a modest grant to the Warehouse, and divert a £3.5 million “gift” from developers, just to build an (ill-considered) studio theatre and art house cinema at the (privately owned) Fairfield Halls?

      Fairfield supporters ought to be asking why the venue is not receiving Art Council grants. Once again, the answer probably lies with out council.

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