“We need to teach you lot how to fly!”

“This is where the audience meets me for the first time,” says Tinker Bell clutching her umbrella as if it’s a wand.

“My character is a prima donna. She’s a bit grumpy and doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

“And do you find that challenging, being grumpy?” I ask, cheekily. The rest of the cast burst out laughing.

‘Tinks’ dismisses the banter with a wave of her umbrella. “Elvi has cast us all with our own personalities in mind,” she laughs.

We’re at the top of Wilton Park near Batley, adjacent to the magnificent Bagshaw Museum, and I’m about to follow the Wrongsemble theatre company cast for a run-through of their version of the J.M. Barrie classic.

Written and directed by Elvi Piper, Pan in the Park will lead lost boys and girls through the beautiful Wilton Park that for two days over the August bank holiday will be transformed into Neverland for the West Yorkshire company’s most ambitious project yet.

“Our actors will wear radio microphones and the audience will all have headsets so they’ll not only hear Captain Hook sparring with Peter Pan but they’ll also experience specially created audio effects that will bring the show to life.”

Elvi set up Wrongsemble three years ago after identifying a gap in the market for good quality family theatre. “I’d see lots of shows that young people enjoyed but bored the grown ups or alternatively the adults liked but went over the heads of the young people.

“Family theatre should be an experience for the whole family,” she enthuses, “that’s where the idea for Wrongsemble was born.”

“And that fits in perfectly with the aspirations of Creative Scene,” I suggest.

“Absolutely. They have been a huge supporter. They’ve taken a chance with us and believe in what we do.”

Pan in the Park will be Wrongsemble’s third collaboration with Creative Scene. Their previous productions – Three and Billy Shakes – both went down a storm on the On Tour half term circuit.

“We want theatre for everyone,” says Elvie. “For people who’ve never experienced it before and in places where you wouldn’t expect to experience it. We need to take our work into communities, not expect people to turn up at venues.”

“Wilton Park certainly isn’t your regular theatre venue,” I say as we head down the steep path.

“We can’t close the park,” chips in Kirsty Pennycook who is producing the show as well as playing one of the pirates, “and neither would we want to. So you’ll have dog walkers bumping into Captain Hook hiding in wait, which will be fun.”

“Pirates can be anywhere in Neverland!” declares Tinks from the base of a huge tree.

“Elvi has written and directed the show specially for this park,” whispers Kirsty as the rehearsal continues, “and it wouldn’t be the same show anywhere else. So when it’s steep, that’s part of the narrative and when it’s dark, that’s part of the narrative too. It’s really lovely.”

“And is there a crocodile in the lake?” I ask.

“Not in the lake,” she says, not wanting to give too much away, “but there is a crocodile.”

With Tiger Lily, the head of the Lost Girls, cast as a St Trinian’s-type figure and Wendy replaced by Gwen, her great-great-granddaughter, this adaptation is set to be a hit.

“We try to choose stories that have an air of familiarity so people feel confident they will enjoy them,” explains Elvi as we walk towards a stone bridge across a cutting. “But we also challenge our audiences by giving them something different. You’ve never seen Peter Pan like we’re doing it. It’s modern, punky and very unexpected.”

I’m hooked.

Pan in the Park is on Sunday, 27th August and Monday 28th August, 11.00, 1.30 and 4.00.
Tickets here or from Bagshaw Museum, Wilton Park, Batley, WF17 0AS. Limited tickets available on the day.

Newcomers rock up for a ‘turn’

“This is the first time we’ve gone public,” says Parveen as platters of sandwiches and samosas are laid out in preparation, “so I’m really excited about that.”

It’s Friday night and yet again we’re at Sensory World in Dewsbury for the fourth edition of Creative Scene’s spoken word event.

Up until now organiser Parveen has invited local writing groups and poets first hand. “For tonight’s event we had some postcards printed and I put them in libraries, in the railway station and around the pubs that I know do open mic events. Let’s see who rocks up.

“This is tonight’s host,” says Parveen introducing me to a man rubbing the front of his T-shirt. “I’ve just been for something to eat,” says Phil Pearce, “and got mango chutney all down me.”

Phil and I find a quiet corner for a quick interview. “What did you make of it when Parveen asked you to compere this evening?”

“I wrote my first ever poem and performed it on stage last October, so all this is very new to me,” he says, “and this is the first time I’ve been asked to host. It’s brilliant.”

Phil tells me he started to write when he was in prison. “In 2013 I was convinced for drug offences – I’d been addicted for 10 years – and the first poem I’m going to read tonight is about my addiction.”

More people arrive, most are regulars but I spot a couple of faces I haven’t seen before. “I work at Dewsbury Library,” says Katie. “And this is Ash.”

“Do you write and perform?” I ask Katie’s friend.

“I’m in a band and write music,” says Ash, “but no, we’re just observing tonight.”

“Well, last time a young woman was so inspired by what she heard in the first set that she wrote a piece in the break and performed it in the second half,” I say. “So you never know. Have you got a pen?”

After a brief welcome from Parveen, Phil is on his feet and, by way of introduction, apologises for the chutney stain.

His poem about drugs – “Hello, my name’s Phil and I’m an addict” – is followed by a very personal one about cancer and a third about knife crime.

“Let’s get all the heavy stuff out of the way in the first half,” he jokes, “so we can lighten things up after the break.”

One performer follows another. There are pieces about dementia, loneliness, volunteering, NHS privatisation, community unity and a lament for the passing of the X33 bus.

While we all tuck into the sandwiches and samosas at half time I notice we’ve been joined by a group of five young woman.

Maariya tells me she’s been writing a blog for a couple of years now and she heard about tonight’s event at the library. “What’s your blog about?” I ask.

“Contemporary topics about Indian life,” she says. “I write about marriage, friendship, forgiveness, the future, ego, that sort of thing. But I’ve never read anything in front of a group before.”

“Are you nervous?” Maariya holds her hand flat above her head.

“You’ll be fine. They’re a friendly and supportive bunch.”

Before the second half kicks off I catch up with Katie and Ash again. “Written anything yet?” I ask Ash.

“No, but, to be fair, it’s been very inspiring. It has actually made me want to give it a go. Maybe for the next one.”

“Wow, brilliant,” I say genuinely. “And Katie, I’ve just been chatting to Maariya.”

“Yes, she was talking to a colleague about her blog and I gave her one of the postcards Parveen had left. And yeah, she’s come along tonight.”

“Okay,” shouts Phil, “Are we ready for the second half?”

For details of the next It’s a Word Thing, keep an eye on Creative Scene’s website or email parveen@creativescene.org.uk

“You’re drawn into the story from the very beginning.”

“You’d get a good view from over there,” I suggest to the first of the audience as they stagger in with their folding chairs and cool boxes.

There’s an hour to go before the first performance and punters have been invited to arrive early and enjoy their picnics before the show.

It gives me a chance to catch up with co-director James Doyle-Roberts who I interviewed during last week’s rehearsals. “Happy?” I ask.

“Very happy,” he says. “We’ve been lucky with the weather this week so we’ve had time to really push the precision of the choreography.

“To see this up,” he nods to the huge metal rig above the stage, “and see them perform against the backdrop of Oakwell Hall has just been brilliant.

“And it’s been great working with Amy and Charlie, the two local scenic artists. I gave them a couple of boxes of old tableware and antique bits and bobs and they’ve created these beautiful installations dotted around. They’ve really come up trumps.”

The walled garden is filling up fast and I wander round with my tape recorder. “And where are you all from?” I ask a group of four older woman who are unpacking their picnic.

“I’m from Virginia,” says Sharon.

“And I’m from North Carolina,” says Carol.

Eyebrows raised, I turn towards their companions. “We’re from Dewsbury,” says Christine in an altogether more familiar accent.

Turns out Christine and Sharon are both Soroptimists – the women’s version of Rotary – and have been visiting each other for over 25 years.

“We like the theatre and last year we saw Wicked at The Alhambra,” says Christine, unwrapping ham sandwiches, “but I couldn’t find anything appropriate until I saw this advertised in The Reporter.”

“She always entertains us well,” says Sharon.

“So the pressure’s on,” I tease. “This has got to be one of your memorable experiences.”

“I can tell it already will be,” Sharon says, pouring red wine into a plastic glass beaker.

On the front row, Karen and Cheryl from Barnsley have installed their professional-looking picnic basket on a chair in front of them. “What have you got in there?” I ask.

“Stuffed peppers, smoked salmon, sausage rolls and the odd homemade vanilla slice,” reveals Karen, excitedly. “We’re having a real girly-bonding session tonight.”

“I haven’t had a picnic since I was a kid,” says Cheryl, “and I’ve never been to an outdoor thing like this before.”

“Well, enjoy,” I say, leaving them to tuck in.

Lucas is here too with his mum Debbie. “I last photographed you at HeckmondLIGHT, didn’t I?” I remind the teenage dancer. “What are you up to?”

“I’ve off to uni in September,” he says, “to do contemporary dance.” Part of Rebecca’s West Yorkshire Drama Academy, Lucas has thrown himself into all things Creative Scene over the last couple of years.

“You’ll have to give me your professional opinion of the show afterwards,” I suggest.

Production director Karen is front and centre now. “Thank you everyone for coming tonight to Oakwell Hall. Creative Scene is about to present to you Savage Hart by Citrus Arts. The show will start in approximately five minutes…”

“Wow, it was incredible. So creative,” says Sharon 70 minutes later and after the five performers have taken their final bow. “From the very beginning you were drawn into the story. It was magical, just magical. And the music… wow.”

“So that was a hit,” I say to Christine who is putting lids on plastic containers, beaming.

“I was mesmerised,” she says. “The dancing and the acrobatics… just fantastic.”

I catch up with Lucas. “The setting was amazing, wasn’t it?” he says. “And the dancers were all in sync and just flowed into each other. The masks were really simple and yet very effective. I just wish I could have seen the musicians a bit more because the music was amazing.”

Karen and Cheryl are packing the remains of their expansive picnic away. “What did you make of it?” I ask, “the show, not the vanilla slice.”

Tickets for tonight (21st) and tomorrow’s (22nd July) performances are still available ‘on the door’ at Oakwell Hall. Picnics from 6pm. Show starts at 7pm.

Already seen it? Fill in the survey to win £50 in vouchers.

“It’s a spell we’re trying to weave to make a magical show.”

“So then we go right, and gallop. Left turn, up and over, then knee over the left and then lunge.”

Co-director James Doyle-Roberts and I are in the wings of the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield watching rehearsals for next week’s performances of Savage Hart. “How would you describe the plot in two sentences?” I ask, cheekily.

“It’s a story about a bad man who’s brought to redemption through being haunted by spirits that come alive in his house,” James says. “His wife is manipulated by the spirits to help him. Ultimately it’s a tale of redemption.”

“So there’s a happy ending?” I ask, watching the four performers canter around the stage.

“I’m going to let you work that out for yourself.”

Next week James and the rest of the Citrus Arts cast, musicians and crew move to the grounds of Oakwell Hall near Birstall in preparation for three evenings of outdoor performances of their redemption tale. In a Creative Scene production, it will be the first time the full version of their acclaimed show is performed in the open.

Their story is set in the 18th-century Hafod Estate in west Wales where, they imagine, the stags heads adorning wood-panelled walls come alive to spook the domineering master of the house.

“Savage Hart celebrates the beauty of the natural world so performing it outside will be very special,” enthuses James. “There’s something about asking the audience to share that experience with you. And Oakwell Hall is a place that just fires the imagination.”

Judging by the reviews Citrus Arts brilliantly combines circus skills, theatre and drama in a show that was originally conceived by James’ co-director and wife, Bridie.

It was her childhood memories of playing amongst the overgrown gardens and crumbling masonry of the now derelict Haford Estate that inspired the magical, haunting storyline.

“It takes a certain level of rigour for us to get where we want to be for a show like this,” explains James. “When the show starts we have seven people – five performers and two musicians – working closely together for 60 minutes.”

Led by associate director Hannah Darby, who plays the doe spirit, the performers are now running through a sequence with two of the deer heads that they’ll wear during the show. Created by felt artist Gladys Paulus, the beautifully-crafted masks add yet another challenge.

“Once they have the masks on,” explains James, “they’re pretty much blind so have to learn all their moves instinctively. Part of the show includes a five-minute trapeze routine which is even more amazing to watch considering they can’t see what they’re doing.”

“And what’s been your biggest challenge?” I ask James.

He laughs and puts a hand to his forehead. “I remember when we were first taken to Oakwell by Nancy [director of Creative Scene] who asked if we’d like to stage the show there. We were very excited and immediately said yes.

“On Monday we go down to build the stage and the aerial rig. Suddenly you’re wondering whether it will all fit. That’s my challenge. But it will fit. We’ll spend a day in the rain – it’s forecast to be wet – to make it fit.

“And as someone who used to be a circus performer I will inevitably end up swinging a sledgehammer at some point.”

“Okay, I think we’ve got that now,” I hear Hannah say from the middle of the stage, “shall we do it all again from the top?”

Want to see how it ends? Pack a picnic for Savage Hart at Oakwell Hall, Nutter Lane, Birstall. 20th-22nd July. Tickets here.

“I’m a Southerner, from South Yorkshire.”

“We did The Navigation Tavern in Mirfield last night and they were lovely… all on board from the off,” says Becca as she plasters on yellow make-up in the back room. “I’ve forgotten my brush so I’m having to use my finger.”

The second leg of It’s Your Round – where Becca Morden plays quiz mistress-cum-pub landlady – kicks off in half an hour at The Leggers Inn on the banks of the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal in Dewsbury.

“It’s basically a theatrical pub quiz with big daft characters,” she says, now doing her lashes.

As artistic director of Scary Little Girls, Becca has been splashing on the yellow make-up for a little while now. “We’ve done a pub tour of the show down south,” she tells me, “and adapted it for a library tour. Each time we tweak it to fit the venue. There’ll be some tricky questions about Dewsbury tonight.”

Creative Scene’s ‘The Local’ has been running for a couple of years now, touring pubs in West Yorkshire and building audiences along the way. The Leggers is one of two new venues on the circuit but the performances are well known to pub manager Joel.

“I used to work at the Old Turk in town,” he says, from behind the bar, “and we had Early Doors play there which the locals still talk about. Anything that brings new people into the pub has got to be a good thing.”

“Are you playing tonight?” I ask as the bar begins to fill.

“Yeah,” he says, “I’ve got my team all sorted.”

Becca is now in character and introducing herself to a table of three older woman and one older bloke, all unsure of what to expect but up for a fun evening.

“What have you chosen as your team name?” she asks as she steadies her beehive.

“‘Stuart’s Harem’,” splutters one of the women to a chorus of laughter.

“Oh, he wishes, does he?” retorts Becca, in her ‘Bet Lynch’ persona, “Let him dream, eh?”

“That’s all I do nowadays,” jokes Stuart to even more hysterics.

The room is now bulging and late entries huddle around the covered pool table. “Hello Dewsbury,” declares Becca. “My name is Pat Pinch and I come from a lovely pub called The Rhubarb and Ferret. I’m a Southerner, from South Yorkshire.”

‘Pat’ introduces the format of the quiz and sets out a few ground rules. “I’m going to be really strict,” she says, tongue firmly in cheek. “I don’t what to see any smart phones – although I think there are a few teams here who haven’t quite caught up with smart phones.

“But there’s no point in cheating because the prizes are shit. It’s simply not worth it.”

There are questions on general knowledge, films and a surprise music round. The local questions get heads scratching, and there’s even a round that, as Pat puts it, requires the keenest of taste buds.

After hoots of laughter and plenty of banter back and forth, there’s a break as the scores are totted up.

“How did you find it?” I ask Stuart and his ‘harem’.

“We did all right with the music ones,” they say, still chuckling.

“And are you pleased you came along?”

“Oh yes,” they say in unison, “it’s been good fun.”

Pat is on the microphone again. “Okay, the scores are in, are you ready? Oh, blimey, it’s very close…”

It’s Your Round continues for the rest of the week at:
Mill Valley Brewery Tap, Cleckheaton on Thursday, 13 July at 7.30pm.
Roberttown Community Centre, Liversedge on Saturday, 15th July at 7.30pm.