The fantastic Stuff and Nonsense Theatre Company return to Lighthouse for the Christmas season with Three Little Pigs, a lovable family show for younger children, full of puppets, music, comedy and festive thrills. We asked Artistic Director, Niki McCretton and performers Katie Underhay and Peter Morton to tell us more about the production ...
Can you tell us a little about 3 Little Pigs?
Katie: Tall Pig, Middle Pig and Tiny Pig need to build themselves a house, but they can’t seem to catch a break from the wolf! There are only two of us in the cast, so we play and puppeteer multiple characters throughout the show. It gets pretty frantic swapping puppets and changing bits of costume and I think that adds to the frenetic vibe of the whole thing!
Peter: 3 Little Pigs is the story that you expect but told in unexpected and satisfying ways with an ending that gets the whole audience huffing and puffing. It is a show that revolves around the characters; the audience falls completely in love with Tall, Middle, and Tiny Pig and even have a soft spot for J. Arthur Wolfington Smythe.
Why do you think the story remains so popular with young people and families?
Peter: It’s a tale that has stood the test of time, the concept is beautifully simple: 3 pigs building houses to keep away from the wolf. Like all good old stories with these facts the narrative can be woven by the teller who can embellish and add detail and create a different ending to suit their audience. Everyone who comes to the show has their own preconceptions of the story and it’s fantastic to play with the audience on this.
Katie: It’s one of those stories where the plucky, unlikely heroes beat the big scary baddy and I think that resonates with everyone – whether you’re a 6 year-old relating it to a bully from school, or a 30 year-old thinking of standing up to a co-worker who has been walking all over you!
Everyone loves to see the little guys win. And this show in particular is amazing with families. I think the parents are expecting to have to ‘sit through’ a baby-show, but within the first minute, they’re laughing themselves and you can tell that they are really surprised and relieved! We talk to the audience during the show and you can see that 2, 4, 9 and 60 year olds are all having an amazing time which is so nice as a performer.
What do you enjoy most about working on productions using puppetry?
Katie: I’ve always loved puppets. It was a fantastic realisation when I finally worked out you could work with them as a career! I love creating characters and as an actor you’re pretty limited because you know that your character is always going to look a bit like you do. But when somebody gives you a chubby little pig puppet and that’s your basis for a character it opens up so many ideas you probably wouldn’t have thought of! This production is quite unique because we play the same characters as puppets and actors, so the voice and movement we create for the puppet also has to translate to the way I act the character. It’s an unusual challenge but always keeps you on your toes. I’ve performed in 3 Little Pigs over 150 times and I keep thinking of new ways to make my acting versions of characters more similar to the puppeteering!
Peter: Puppets are a fantastic way to present the characters in this story. Whereas an actor is a person who we all know is someone who isn’t really “Tall Pig” (they are “Peter the touring actor who exists outside the show”), the Tall Pig puppet is Tall Pig. The puppets are created to play the role and therefore the audience sees only the character in the show. I love working with puppets because of the investment the audience can have in a piece of foam and cloth. There is no thought in the audience’s mind that, as the wolf goes to eat tiny pig, that it is just a puppet and doesn’t really matter! No, IT’S TINY PIG!!! WHO’S GOING TO SAVE HIM!!?
Nikki, you’re the Artistic Director, tell us about the challenges you faced producing a Children’s show full of music, comedy and puppetry not forgetting the big bad wolf’s huffin’ and puffin’
Nikki: Our challenge is mostly to do with creating adaptations of these classic stories that will hold the essence of the tale, whilst being creatively engaging for all the differing ages of people who come to see us. Some people are only 2 or 3 and want to engage visually with the production, getting the story without worrying about the words and at the other extreme the adults that come need to also get huge enjoyment from a bit of a twist or understanding a different layer of the emotional journey that the characters are having. That is what we pride ourselves on. There is a scene, for example, of the Middle Pig trying to build a straw house which the children find hilarious yet the adults understand the frustration and that is where they find the comedy. Also with this story it was important for us to find a balance of the wolf being devious but not scary at all. Funny that many of the children actually enjoy siding with him!
Three Little pigs will be coming to Lighthouse during the lead up to Christmas, how will you be capturing the festive spirit in the show?
Nikki: This show is not about Christmas but it is brilliantly colourful and surprising and has a huge celebratory feel and is like a party at the end. Just perfect for a festive treat - you can get up and dance too if you would like and it will leave you in a brilliant mood, and certainly get rid of any Christmas stress the grown ups might be feeling!