Concrete Youth’s Winter Wonderland

Wintern’s assemble! Let’s all help Jack and Snow fix The Snow Machine!

Hello!

Concrete Youth are back with another fabulous virtual show! Back in July I reviewed their show, Shebaa’s Adventure to Jopplety How which was such a lovely piece of online theatre to have the honour of watching. Following five star reviews and now that the winter is upon us, Concrete Youth are releasing their next work of video theatre art: Winter Wonderland! And after watching it, I am feeling all kinds of snug and ready to defend the universe!

Catch up with Concrete Youth

I have talked about who they are plenty of times but there’s no harm in singing their prayers again right? Concrete Youth are an award-winning theatre company based in Hull who aim to creating inclusive works of theatre for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Using various multi-sensory activities, each show they produce if full of joy. They pride themselves on their accessible and truly inviting atmospheres filled with live music, sign language, encouraging spirit and much, much more. As someone without any PMLD, I am solely here to support the work of this amazing company in any way I can, as a friend of the company and as a fellow theatre maker. After watching each of their previous works (To the Moon and Back and Shebaah’s Adventure to Jopplety How) I was left feeling inspired and, although I am not their target audience, I know that the stories that are told can have a huge reach and that they have been lovely stories to tell to anyone! I will forever be proud of Dan (Daniel Swift) and Belle (Belle Streeton) [my friends from university] for all the work they have put into the company, not to mention Annabelle Moorman and Elle Douglas, the outreach officer and Associate Artist (respectively). I am excited to see what their future holds. If they can create such wonderful pieces whilst in a world pandemic, online and in isolation, then imagine what more the can create in person and on a stage!

Ok, let’s talk some more about the Winter Wonderland

(If you want to find out more about Concrete Youth, feel free to check out my previous posts and head to their website!)

Jack (Sami Kali) is napping after too many slushies!

What is it about?

Jack and Snow live in Winter Wonderland and although the season is here, there is no snow to show it is winter because the Snow Machine is broken! The only way to find out why it isn’t working is with the Winterns (the audience) and then together everyone can fix the machine!

A simple premise of a story with a whole lot of heart.

In partnership with Hull New Theatre, Winter Wonderland has been in the works for most of 2020 with the intent of being performed physically in front of an audience and within a stage setting. However, like most of our plans this year, they were drastically changed as we went in and out of lockdown and through tier systems of isolation. None of that stopped Concrete Youth though, and after the successed of Shebaah there was no doubt that they could pull of another incredibly successful green screen work of magic.

With theatres closed down up and down the country it is difficult for us to gain access to some forms of artistic culture, but we take for granted just how much we can see online instead whilst we’re stuck at home. For some people, though, Netflix and Disney Plus isn’t always as helpful as we think it might be. We take for granted that we perhaps don’t need captions, sign language, or a slower pace of action. Perhaps for some people less is more when it comes to viewing a screen. Concrete Youth’s work makes screen time available for everyone to enjoy. In Winter Wonderland, less, in fact, becomes so much more. The simple plot becomes full of action through the Makaton sign language (provided with the assistance of Prit Chouhan), enthusiasm of the actors playing Jack and Snow (Sami Kali and Emma Prendergast), and the (what I can only describe as) magical editing works of Fly Girl Films that set you off on the journey to save The Snow Machine!

Snow, (Emma Prendergast) is as cheery as ever!

The first thing that stood out to me was the script. I commend the writer (Daniel Swift) on his use of puns and the ease in which they fit into the world he has created. I am sure they will definitely get some giggles out of any viewer, and perhaps some face palms here and there too – particularly at the Ready, Steady, Snow moments. We all love some classing Christmas cracker jokes! Both Sami Kali and Emma Prendergast did an absolutely wonderful job as our hostes in Winter Wonderland! They truly brought the story to life and I have no doubt that the direction of Belle Streeton only aided their fab performances. The range of emotions they showed had me feeling every form of empathy and there was definitely a few moments where I felt a tear of happiness could drop at any moment. Their singing voices were beautiful too! It may be a simple story but to me that is simple in the sense of the word that means you don’t have to think about it. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy. You can be happy, and truly happy, and proud, and loved, and involved and everything more that makes you know that what you’re watching is something remarkable. I also want to mention the design side to things! The “sets” chosen gave me all the wintery feels and were everything you can imagine to be a real winter wonderland. I could help but keep looking at the costumes either. Snow’s dress was fitting of a ture princess, and Jack’s silvery suit was slick. Both suited the characters perfectly. Not to mention the make up and hair stylings for both. The whole look of the piece made me want to run out to the snowy mountain tops and become a real princess covered in glitter, living in a castle blasting sparks out of my finger tips as I talk to the birds. I can dream. Maybe that is just it. Winter Wonderland is a story about dreaming, believing and knowing that with love and togetherness we can conquer anything and make magic happen. Yet another inspiring story by those at Concrete Youth!

Snow is excited that there might be some snow about!

Alongside the video, audiences are sent a list of items to retrieve to be used throughout the video. All items can be easily sourced from your home or at your local supermarket. Then throughout the video, Snow and Jacket will let you know when they are needed! What I love is that there is plenty of space for your own exploring. You have the time to feel around the items, get involved and make some snow, tasted the hot chocolate. Then of course in the programme there are other suggestions of how to enjoy the whole experience even more, for example, by giving it the Olfactory and cracking open a window to get that real frosty feeling!

And just when you’re thinking, wow they’ve really thought of everything, they have thought of even more. As a little extra, there is an activity pack that goes alongside the video, giving their audiences plenty to do before, during and after the video is over. You can become a true Wintern by making your very own badge, as well of plenty of other activities for sensory play.

Jack is feeling the cold weather!

So you’re wondering how to get access to such a show?

Looking for something to do with your kids, or with anyone with or without PMLD this year? I 100% recommend snapping up a ticket to get your virtual pass to this masterpiece of a show. There’s not much else to do this festive period so what better to do than getting wrapped up warm and going on a journey to become the saviour of snow?!

You can book tickets for £5 online now through the Hull New Theatre website here. On Friday 18th, the video of the production will then be circulated to you via email for you to view at your leisure in your own time! Then for an extra £1.50, you can purchase access to the Winterns Activity Pack for an enhance experience and future fun, following on from visiting Winter Wonderland!

I’m not usually one to give star ratings when talking about theatre, but with this piece, how could I not give it 5 stars since overall, it is a beautifully crafted, forever inspiring piece of virtual theatre. A piece of theatre that I would love to see replicated on to the stage one day when the time comes along. I want to be in Winter Wonderland and I am well and truly ready to go on an adventure with Jack and Snow, whether it is to fix The Snow Machine again, or perhaps they can show me around Winter Wonderland some more. I’ll be there, as I always with for a Concrete Youth production.

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