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Part theatre part gig performs ballads of smugglers at Cecil Sharp House

PUBLISHED: 12:30 15 March 2017

The Theatre Ballads will translate traditional folk ballads such as The Female Smuggler into visual theatre. 
Cast. Front left, Gretchen Maynard Hahn and right, Ailsa Dalling. Back left to right, John Kirkpatrick, Kate Locksley and Bryony Griffiths.

The Theatre Ballads will translate traditional folk ballads such as The Female Smuggler into visual theatre. Cast. Front left, Gretchen Maynard Hahn and right, Ailsa Dalling. Back left to right, John Kirkpatrick, Kate Locksley and Bryony Griffiths.

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A show telling the stories behind eight traditional folk songs gets its premiere at Cecil Sharp House this month

A show telling the stories behind eight traditional folk songs gets its premiere at Cecil Sharp House this month.

The Theatre Ballads was co-commissioned by the English Folk Dance and Song Society who are based at the Primrose Hill venue.

Horse + Bamboo Theatre Company have combined live music, animation, puppetry and visual theatre to bring to life songs such as The Female Smuggler, about a young woman who disguises herself as a sailor to follow her father to sea. It will be told through puppets, while Con Yo’ Help us a Bit about the closure of the Lancashire mills will be recounted with stop-frame animation.

Top folk musicians, including Steeleye Span and the Albion Band’s John Kirkpatrick on melodeon and accordion, Bryony Griffith of The Demon Barbers on fiddle, viola and piano, and Scottish singer songwriter Ewan McLennan on guitar will perform the songs.

Esther Ferry-Kennington, from Horse + Bamboo Theatre said: “This is a new style of performance somewhere between an evening at the theatre and a music gig that will bring theatre to the traditional music audience and traditional music to a theatre audience.

“Each of the eight pieces is a historic ballad arranged and performed live alongside puppetry and simple illustrations, drawing out the tales before your eyes to create an evocative new look at visual theatre and folk music.”

The project to translate traditional folk ballads into theatre was chosen as the winner of a competitive commissioning process by the EFDSS with a grant from the PRS for Music Foundation’s talent development fund. They handed Horse + Bamboo a £4,000 bursary to research and develop the show, which premieres at Cecil Sharp House in Regent’s Park Road on March 23 before moving on to Bristol and Bury. Tickets £16 from cecilsharphouse.org.

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