list.co.uk/festival Tall Stories | FESTIVAL KIDS
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
In 1997, a new theatre company creating work for children headed to the Edinburgh Fringe for the ﬁ rst time. 20 years later, they’re still going strong. Kelly Apter talks to Tall Stories about the secret of their success
F rom a chance meeting in a London theatre box ofi ce to performing all over the world, Tall Stories has undergone quite a journey over the past two decades. For the i rst four years, co- founders Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell ran the company out of a spare room in Jacobs’ l at, until their 2001 adaptation of a (at that point) little-known book called The Gruffalo made the children’s theatre world sit up and listen.
Based in London, the company has worked hard to keep young audiences (and their adult companions) excited and engaged, bringing a new show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe each August before touring it across the UK and beyond. ‘Edinburgh is where everything began for Tall Stories,’ says Jacobs. ‘It’s where we were spotted and booked for our i rst international festival, from which we started to tour to America and all over the world. It’s a bit of a spiritual home for us.’
Alongside numerous original devised shows, the company’s relationship with the work of Julia Donaldson has borne multiple fruit. That early production of The Gruffalo was followed by superb adaptations of Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale and The Gruffalo’s Child. The latter is heading back to the Fringe this year, having i rst played it in 2006.
‘I have a huge affection for The Gruffalo’s Child,’ says Jacobs, ‘and we continue to change and update the show. We’re very proud of this latest incarnation and our cast is fabulous.’
This time around, not only will The Gruffalo’s Child be entertaining a new generation of young Fringe-goers, but it will also enable the company to bring a smaller, original show to Edinburgh that will be affordable for all. Exploring life through the eyes of Dominic, a young
The Gruffalo’s Child
boy on the cusp of high school, Future Perfect travels backwards and forwards in time as he frantically tries to i x things to ensure his life turns out OK. ‘Tall Stories is a small charity doing big things and our larger scale shows support our smaller scale work,’ explains Jacobs. ‘That allows us to take high quality productions to a wide and diverse audience. So this year at the Fringe, we’re performing The Gruffalo’s Child alongside Future Perfect, a show that’s really thought-provoking for both grown- ups and children, and for which tickets are just £2.’
As audiences around the world have discovered, whether Tall Stories is adapting the work of others or dreaming up brand new stories such as Twinkle Twonkle and Ali e White: Space Explorer, one thing is guaranteed: the shows will be well-crafted, beautifully designed and expertly performed pieces of theatre. Which is why a Tall Stories show at the Fringe is always accompanied by a long queue outside. ‘We founded the company with the aim of telling good stories well, for audiences of all ages,’ says Jacobs. ‘Hopefully our audiences return because they like the stories we tell and the way we tell them. We’ve been hugely lucky to create our shows with some amazing people and to have a very loyal audience, especially in Edinburgh. And we’re very grateful that they continue to come back for more.’
The Gruffalo’s Child, Pleasance Courtyard, 6–20 Aug (not 9, 16), 10.30am, £9.50–£11.50 (£8.50–£10.50). Previews 2–4 Aug, £7. Future Perfect, Pleasance Courtyard, 2–20 Aug (not 9, 16), 2pm, £2.
3–10 Aug 2017 THE LIST FESTIVAL 89