Interview With…Joanna Vymeris

The director chatted to us about Sky in the Pie, playing as part of the Vaults Festival from the 6th March.

(c)  Johannes Hjorth.

Hi Joanna, what can we expect from Sky in the Pie? Sky in the Pie will be an audio and visual spectacle in celebration of Roger McGough’s phenomenal work. A feast for the eyes and the ears in equal measure. Your eyes will be dazzled by the skills of our incredibly talented acrobats and actors, tumbling across the stage, spinning in hoops and balancing on one hand. They will be playing with puppets to add yet another dimension to poetry. And for your ears, the madness of Roger’s poetry will be accompanied by a bonkers and beautiful soundtrack of original music. The show has a touching message for both adults and children, that the
curiosity of a child is precious and a bit of imagination can transform the seemingly mundane into something magical.

How did the concept for the show come about? I’ve worked on numerous shows with a spoken word artist ‘The Nasty Poet’ and have loved
exploring choreography to poetry. The Nasty Poet and I worked on developing stories through spoken word and circus. We did this for the Feathers of Daedalus productions Coppelia and Mythologue. I had been in conversation with the OSO Arts Centre in Barnes about making a
children’s show for them and we discussed working with a local writer. Roger McGough’s work is so rhythmical that he seemed the perfect collaborator for another circus and poetry production and was ideal because he has a link with the OSO. Roger is such an established and successful British poet that I thought the collaboration was unlikely but he replied straight away and was excited about the idea. I prepared a pitch to Roger for the project but when I arrived at his house for tea it appeared his questions were rather ‘When shall we begin and what shall we make?’ We have been working on the show since last May, meeting regularly and brainstorming different possible narratives and poems to include. The thing I find so magical about Roger’s children’s poems is that he makes such ordinary and relatable things seem so funny or wonderful or extraordinary through word play. This led us onto the idea of an ordinary day for a child that becomes extraordinary through the poetry. This would be further enhanced through its expression in circus form. I spoke to Roger about wanting to make the piece as multidisciplinary as possible to make these ‘extraordinary’ moments event more fantastical. Roger brought in a musician Steve Halliwell who he works with, and he has written a soundtrack for the show. I set out in search of a puppet maker and found the excellent Sian Kidd who is bringing six of the poems to life in puppet form.

Roger McGough (c)Colin Clarke.

When did you first discover Roger McGough’s poetry?I remember Roger’s poetry from when I was a child. The silliness and playfulness of it stayed with me. It was only in the last few years that I rediscovered his work by hearing him on BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Please. I love the show and was inspired to discover more of Roger’s work for adults. The humour and timelessness affected me in the same way as it did as a child. I’ve found such joy reading even more of Roger’s work during the development of the show.
Why do you think that poetry is important for children to appreciate?
Poetry shows us the power and playfulness of language and the power and playfulness of words. It can make us laugh, cry or think for hours in just a few lines. For children it’s a great way to make them ask questions or think differently about the things they think they know. Roger’s work does
this wonderfully well. It makes the familiar seem endlessly strange and exciting. We are excited to be working with the CLPE (Children’s Literacy in Primary Education) to develop workshops for
schools to show children the importance and power of poetry.

What are you most looking forward to about bringing the show to VAULT Festival? We are incredibly excited to bring Sky in the Pie to VAULT. What an amazing program they have put together this year and we feel privileged to be amongst so many wonderful shows. The program is
full of poetry, puppetry, music and circus, everything we are exploring in Sky in the Pie, and we can’t wait to learn from other companies and hopefully inspire others with our own piece. We will have already had a week at the OSO Arts Centre to develop the show and make changes, so will be bringing a polished and developed version of the show to the festival.
In many ways it is the perfect show to bring in accompaniment to our show Tarot which is on in Week one of VAULT festival. Both shows present similar concepts and themes but to very different audiences. Our idea of finding the extra-ordinary in the ordinary and merging unexpected art forms
with circus, whether Tarot card readings, music or poetry, are present in both. Tarot is perfect for an audience seeking to explore these themes through something a bit more dark and adult, whereas
Sky in the Pie is the complete opposite, presenting the ideas through a light and playful tale of innocence for families to enjoy.

How would you describe the show?
Fun! Fantastical! Fabulous! Run away with the Feathers of Daedalus Circus and celebrate a phenomenal poet and the phenomenal power of poetry.

By Emma Clarendon

Sky in the Pie will play as part of The Vaults Festival from the 6th to the 8th March.

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