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A Definite Win For Hare And Tortoise At The SJT
Rosie Goodwin, Family Arts Correspondent
Max Runham is Hare, Ceridwen Smith is Tortoise, Georgia Mason is Squirrel (red dungarees) and Ruby Hilton is Badger (blue dungarees). Photos by Hannah van Helvoort
Winter, and Tortoise sleeps, oblivious to nearby Hare’s impatient pacing. Hare sings to her, cajoles and nudges, desperate for his friend to join him.

It is instantly and infinitely relatable. We’ve all been there, waiting, desperate for an event or celebration to come, wishing away the days in eager expectation of a birthday, a holiday, or, in Hare’s case, his planned race with Tortoise.

As a theme, it’s perfect. We can empathise at once with Hare’s exasperation. Hare is a go-getter, a winner, racing through life with a frenetic energy that leaps and bounds.

Adapted by Brendan Murray from the much-loved Aesop’s Fable, the play mainly explores the preamble to that most famous of races, with two competitors who couldn’t be more unevenly matched. It is little surprise that it is Hare, the almost-certain victor, who is keen to get started. With youth, agility and speed on his side, how could he fail?

A sense of anticipation builds throughout the performance, Hare’s enthusiasm spilling into the auditorium. Firmly and confidently, Hare and Tortoise embraces a family audience with children from the age of 0+. As a parent of a two-year-old, it was such a relief to know that he would be not only welcome, but actually catered for.

But at their very best, child-centred experiences are able to speak to the adults in the room too: this certainly did. In a world of instant-gratification, where virtually anything we require or desire can be reached within a single click, a gentle reminder to slow down a little, to wait without worrying, can never hurt.

Played with vitality and self-deprecating humour by multi-talented singer and guitarist Max Runham, it is Hare who controls much of the musical accompaniment. But in a world where anything can happen, it is wise Tortoise who controls the action and events on stage, performed to perfection by the wonderfully-expressive Ceridwen Smith. With a raised nose and furrowed brow, Ceridwen possesses a host of other facial contortions the rest of us can only dream of.

Faced with two such lovable and memorable characters, it’s difficult to know quite who to cheer for when the long-awaited race eventually takes place.

With fine direction by Cheryl Govan, the SJT’s Associate Director (Young People and Community), there are entertaining performances from community actors Ruby Hilton and Georgia Mason, a squirrel and a badger who greet the audience and gee us up for the race ahead, alongside professional actors Ceridwen and Max.

Guiding Hare on a merry dance, Tortoise leads her young audience exquisitely through the seasons, with beautiful set design by Julia Wray – the spring butterflies, summer heat, autumn colours and winter snow – and lighting design by Paul Stear.

Along the way, we encounter an array of emotions. Tortoise may be older, less fit, and slow. But she has many other fine qualities, and heaps of cheeky charm. After all, she charmed my two-year-old.

Also by Rosie Goodwin...
Turning Dizzy Over Dippy
Captured And Captivated By Lincoln Castle…
Exciting Times For The Stephen Joseph Theatre
Breathing New Life into Cartwright Hall
Springing Into The Season
He is ‘going through a stage’ at the moment – the one which involves us avoiding places where any degree of reserve is required. Yes, my fully-fledged toddler does not like being quiet. He has learnt to yell for attention and – horror – scream loudly if he doesn’t get it, instantly. He has discovered his lung capacity and the results are terrifying.

Today was a different story. Today, in the SJT’s McCarthy auditorium, he was rapt, fascinated, attentive. He craned sideways, leaned forward, closer, to soak it in. He never took his eyes from the characters.

He wasn’t the only one. With babes in arms watching this morning, it was a very young audience, held in thrall throughout in an engaging and interactive production, perfectly planned for young families.

Programming for 0+ is always brave. But Hare and Tortoise has that magical combination of anthropomorphic characters and live songs, featuring original music composed by Jack Radish.

There’s still chance to catch Hare and Tortoise throughout the week. In an age of fast-action computer games and apps aimed even at babies and toddlers, it was refreshing to spend time at this delightful, age-appropriate performance.

Hare and Tortoise can be seen in the McCarthy auditorium at the SJT at 10.30am and 1.45pm each day this week, until Saturday 20 April. Tickets are £6 for children and £10 for adults (babies under 18 months go free, but must have a ticket), and are available from the box office on 01723 370541 or via the website: www.sjt.uk.com

For anyone keen to introduce their little ones to a wide range of theatrical experiences, the SJT also runs two weekly ‘Teeny Weeny Rounders’ classes every Wednesday. Aimed at youngsters aged 1 - 3 years old (9.45-10.45am) and 0-12 months old (11-11.45am) these sessions feature storytelling, singing, movement, crafts and sensory activities, led by an experienced theatre practitioner with an emphasis on fun and play. They cost £3.50 per child. Find out more here https://www.sjt.uk.com/getinvolved/young_people

Rosie Goodwin runs a Yorkshire-based arts engagement company, MakeMore ARTS, working with schools and community groups, museums and arts organisations. More information can be found on her website www.makemorearts.com

A Definite Win For Hare And Tortoise At The SJT, 16th April 2019, 16:56 PM