LLLC’s Emma Clarendon chatted to Simon Mole about Mole & Gecko: The Show touring London venues next month.
Huge thanks for taking the time to talk to me. What can audiences expect from your new show? It’s an interactive rap musical for children and families about a Mole and a Gecko who make a show (as well as being about a mole and a gecko who go on an adventure quest in a nameless boat with a downcast duck). I wrote it in collaboration with singer songwriter extraordinaire Gecko, and we perform the piece together too. At one point, I get to do a double time rap as a gangster weasel who sells bourbon biscuits, which is definitely a long-term life goal ticked off.
How did the idea for Mole & Gecko; The Show come about?Gecko came to Maidenhead where I live, and we performed at an event for children and families together. My son, now 4, absolutely loved him. To the extent that on every single car journey for about 6 months all he wanted to listen to was Gecko’s album. It just felt like together we could do something really fun for kids with music and poetry combined – initially we weren’t sure if we were writing songs for an album, or a show – so it all developed quite organically really. We ended up recording some of our favourite songs from the show for a CD, so kind of ended up with both!
What would you love for audiences to take away from the show? Thematically I think we open space for children to think about friendship; by presenting two central characters who are animals of different species with different cultures and experiences of the world, we show that understanding and enjoying our differences is an important part of getting to know each other. Good friendships help people (or animals!) to grow and change, but also allow them to be accepted for who they truly are.
One major take-home message of the show comes in how interactive it is; we want children (and grown-ups) to go home knowing that poetry can be fun – it’s not just something you do because you have to at school, it’s around us every day in songs, books, comics, and the funny anecdotes we tell each other. Hopefully people will realise we all have a poet inside us, and that bringing that side of us out to play is good fun! This message is something I look to put across in all of my work. Over the last two years I have developed a poetry channel on YouTube, making interactive tutorial videos with a range of fun writing prompts and exercises that demonstrate to children (and adults!) that they can easily and enjoyably write poetry themselves.
Why do you think going to the theatre is an important experience for children?It enables children to think creatively, which is a vital skill for any child as they grow up in the world and approach anything they choose to do. Theatre is also a great place to have fun and explore the imagination, and the immersive experience of watching theatre can demonstrate how there are endless possibilities within that imagination. Finally, it is a great route to learning about different people, cultures and issues, and the experience of engaging in theatre can encourage real empathy in young people.
It’s a show that the audience help to create – how does that work?If you come to the show, to begin with you might only be contributing the odd word or two when Gecko and I need a bit of help, but before long you’ll be creating entire songs and deciding what our characters should do at the key moments which determine the final outcome of the show. The level of audience interaction in this show means it’s the first time I’ve come close to achieving on stage the same buzz that sometimes builds in a poetry writing workshop with young people. It’s the moment in that shared creative process when they realise they are already poets and can say whatever ridiculous genius thought pops into their heads, and it will be heard, valued and quite possibly sung or rapped or shouted as part of an actual proper thing. It is really how Gecko and I worked ourselves when writing the show, having a huge amount of fun. Now it is an actual proper thing and we’re heading out on tour to carry on writing it with audiences every time we perform it!
Have you a favourite moment in the show?I very much enjoy playing the evil weasel with a biscuit problem, especially since I’ve been wearing the costume that the brilliant Amanda Mascarenhas made for us. And I absolutely love rapping some of the lines in the songs. Off the top of my head, a favourite is when I’m trying to encourage Gecko to find a big cow poo and poke it with a stick.
After Mole & Gecko: The Show has completed its tour – what’s next in store for you? My first book for children, which is a collaboration with illustrator Oamul Lu, will be published by Quarto/Lincoln Childrens Books later this year.
By Emma Clarendon
Dates for Mole & Gecko The Show are as follows: