It was almost three years ago that Penguin first agreed to work with us and as many years again since the creation of Long Nose Puppets. In that time, along with Shoebaby, Flyaway Katie and the rest of the gang we have had the good fortune to perform in all manner of theatres, schools, libraries and even the odd upside down purple cow. As a touring theatre company based in the South East of England we thought Moondog, our ever trusty tour bus, had explored all there was to see in the region. How little we knew! From the 18th century splendor of Theatre Royal Margate with its original raked stage to the Cornerstone in Didcot with its state-of-the-art facilities, the lovely people at house sent us out on an eye-widening, beak-opening adventure.
Whilst we had been to a few of the venues previously the majority of the dates were a premiere visit for the company. This of course meant we were often in that situation en route of not knowing what kind of a turn out there might be. One can be an established company with a successful show based on a popular children’s picture book but it is no guarantee of bums-on-seats in the ever challenging industry that is touring theatre. We needn’t have worried. For the most part the shows were very well attended and where numbers were a little more lean there was a real sense that venues were making important new links with the local community. It was rewarding to feel we might have proved an initial catalyst in that relationship.
Regardless of attendance, by the sheer amount of patting, pampering and petting the puppets received time and time again in the post-show meet and greet – and that was just the adults – there can be little doubt of theatre’s enduring capacity to connect on a personal level.
For our penguin, sorry, swan song – we traveled, aptly, overseas to the Isle of Wight performing at the dynamic Quay Arts Centre in Newport. With two sell-out shows at a venue that evidently understands the importance of placing theatre amongst a larger community hub, it was a most fitting ending, we thought, for us as a company and the house initiative at large. We were extremely grateful to be given such an exciting opportunity and hope that we were able to act as ambassadors for touring theatre in the region and beyond.
And as Penguin heads back to his Antarctic store cupboard – Long Nose HQ has been so cold in the past days it may as well be the South Pole – we are shouting ‘ALL ABOARD!’ as we put the finishing touches to our next show – Arthur’s Dream Boat. With many thanks to people like Mark and Katie at house long may the adventures continue.