The Polka Theatre’s Artistic Director chatted to us about the theatre’s pop up performance of Maanika & The Wolf.  

(c)Mica Lawrence

Hi Peter – can you tell me more about what Maanika and the Wolf is about? It’s a play about a Grandmother called Maanika who brings her childhood dressing up boxto life, re-enacting the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Her storytelling is layered with memories from her past in India, stories from her family, and video calls from her
Granddaughter Ruby. It has evocative music composed by Arun Ghosh and a beautiful design from Sophia Lovell Smith, which brings together the present in London, with the past in India.

How did the concept for the show come about? Throughout lockdown, my daughters have been connecting with their Grandma through Zoom, and I was impressed by the number of ways this technology allowed them to be
present and creative together – often making up stories. Though this isn’t a piece of theatre about the pandemic, this sparked an interest in exploring this kind of relationship. The well-known tale of Little Red Riding Hood, telling of a world where dangers lurk outside, also felt like a story for now.

How has it been creating a show is a completely different space? When the opportunity to create a production in a shop arose, it felt like something we should definitely do. Pre-pandemic, whilst Polka was beginning its capital redevelopment, we prioritised taking our work out to the local community – touring shows and exhibitions to schools, libraries and local parks across Merton. Over the past 18 months, this commitment to connecting with our community shifted to supporting children and families online, with our priority being supporting children’s well-being. Now, as we begin to move forward with a world where we can once again be together as audiences in a live
setting, we are delighted to be presenting this show in a space that used to be River Island in the middle of Wimbledon’s Centre Court Shopping space. We’ve already got lots of people wandering into rehearsals, asking what’s going on, it seems to be causing a bit of a stir. I’m hoping we’ll reach some families who might not normally come to a theatre show, but think about it after they’ve been to Tesco or H&M.

What are you looking forward to the most about audiences seeing the show? I can’t wait to see and hear the children’s reactions to the play. I think everyone at Polka has missed the collective responses of children to our work as well as their sense of anticipation beforehand, and the playful and creative responses post-show. They are the heart and soul of what we’re about – stimulating their imaginations and creating work that is going to help them navigate their place in the world.

How would you describe Maanika and the Wolf? It’s a story within a story that brings something new and unexpected to a well-known classic tale.

By Emma Clarendon

Maanika and the Wolf will be performed at the Centre Court Shopping Centre from the 29th July until the 29th August.