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Theatre & Dance: Features


Jack And The Beanstalk
Jack And The Beanstalk

Jack and The Beanstalk

Tiebreak Theatre returns to Norfolk for one of its last shows with artistic director, David Farmer. He spoke to BBC Norfolk about his career that's spanned 24 years.


Tiebreak Theatre began life at the Norwich Arts Centre in the early 1980s. From its humble roots of specialising in performances for schools, 24 years later the company now tours all over England presenting theatre to young people and families.

Rachel Binns interviews David Farmer

One of their last shows with founder and artistic director, David Farmer, Jack And The Beanstalk, will be showing in King's Lynn in April.

After 21 years in the role, David is retiring in June to pursue a freelance career in writing, directing and teaching yoga. He spoke to Rachel Binns about Tiebreak's achievements over the years.

Why have you decided to retire now?

I set up Tiebreak in 1981. At the time I thought it would be a good thing to do for year or so and had little idea that it would keep going for so long. Twenty-four years on and it seems that it's time to make way for somebody else to step in.

What do you love about the job?

It's the variety really. We've done plays in forests in America, plays in museums, plays in marquees at schools - on all sorts of different subjects.

I started off as an actor. When I was an actor we also made the scenery, did the administration, wrote the scripts and then I moved on to be the director because there wasn't one. After that I started to write plays myself and also the music.

It is difficult to direct plays for children?

You can be as creative as you like because a lot of children have never seen theatre before and they love using their imagination. But you can't get away with rubbish and you can't bore them.

Scene from Jack And The Beanstalk
Scene from Jack And The Beanstalk

If you're a grown-up and go to the theatre you'll sit there politely if it's boring. Children won't do that - they'll talk, they'll even walk out! It's great because you know if something is working or not.

What has been your favourite play or event you've done as director of Tiebreak?

One of the ones I enjoyed the most was the one I toured the States with quite a few times, called Singing In The Rainforest. It was about a rainforest and quite tongue-in-cheek and used a lot of live music - we had 36 instruments from around the world.

It started off as a play in a museum and then we were talent-spotted and taken over to the States three or four times. So that's got great memories.

You also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2003 - what was that like?

That was great. I really loved it because I'd often gone there to see shows and never put one on and I ended up putting on two shows at once because we ended up having two shows that were really successful and needed to be seen.

One was called My Uncle Arly, which was picked by the Royal Opera House as a prize-winning production for their festival. The other was one I adapted myself called Frog In Love, which went very well. It's since been translated into Norwegian as a result of the Edinburgh Festival and I'm going to Norway in April.

What can people expect from Jack and the Beanstalk?

We worked with a designer from the Hoipolloi Theatre in Cambridge and she came up with the idea of a giant chair which starts off as Jack's house. Most people are surprised when they see the house turn into a giant chair in the giant's kitchen. The actors can climb up it and they look quite small like Gulliver's Travels.

The other thing that's great fun is that there are three actors that act as storytellers and they all play every part in the show, playing lots of musical instruments. So it's very lively and seems to be going down well with the schools.

Jack And The Beanstalk is on at the King's Lynn Arts Centre on Saturday 2 April at 2.30pm. For more information ring 01553 764864.

Picture credit: David Gutteridge

last updated: 01/03/05
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