From spring blossom & summer fruiting, to autumn harvest and leaf-fall, Pip sings as she swings from the branch of an old apple tree. A show for 3-6 year olds, with storytelling, exquisite puppets, an atmospheric set, original music and songs to join in with.
Suitable for nurseries, playgroups, first and pre-schools. Also, for a family audience at Apple Days & Festivals and in small theatres. The show can be performed inside or in the open air. An education pack is available with follow up ideas, storyboard, background, and useful links.
(Photos by Julie Carpenter)
Written, designed and made by Meg Amsden
Music by Matthew Gunn
Directed by Iklooshar Malara
Performed by Suzanne Arnold/Steve Peck
Set by Jayne Ivimey and Frances Beck
Produced by Nutmeg in 2003
Review of Apple Pip by Roger Deakin (author of “Waterlog”)
“There’s a ripple of excitement among the under-sixes who are being welcomed by Suzanne Arnold, the puppeteer and presenter of the show, as she seats them in an arc around the stage set. Like everything else in this show, it is deceptively simple and beautifully made: a single apple tree, its branches bare for winter, and a backdrop of sky. Suzanne is blonde and warm and friendly, and the children can tell straight away that she knows exactly what she’s doing. She slips invisibly from one character to another and will soon have the children spellbound. She speaks of trees and the seasons as she takes some blossoms from her basket and brings the tree into flower, puts on a woolly hat, bends her back, and becomes Mrs Crabbe, whose orchard we are in. Enter Pip, the little girl whose favourite tree this is. She climbs onto its swing and as she plays, the first of the show’s many songs begins.
The story revolves around Pip’s efforts to save the apple tree. She is befriended and helped by the Appletree Man, the orchard-spirit. After encounters with a series of denizens of the place: a pig, a blackbird, a wasp, even a trio of apple maggots, Pip saves the tree and at last makes a friend of Mrs Crabbe by helping to cure her bad back. The show ends with a dance.
Every detail of the story is carefully researched and absolutely accurate. The puppets are beautiful and ingenious, and the script is vividly crafted. As an educational experience, as well as a dramatic one, the show was a revelation to me, but what really counted was the manifestly deep involvement of the young audience in its every twist and turn, their delight in the lyrics of the songs, with which they joined in, and the quickness of their laughter at the wit and humour of the story. The workshop was fascinating because of the breathtaking level of recall amongst the children. They remembered, and sang, the songs and re-enacted whole scenes themselves quite spontaneously. The children are learning by doing, by singing, by dancing, by celebrating together.
They clearly loved the puppets and had the opportunity to see them close up. I have a lasting impression of the puppets being inspected with respect and even awe, mingled with a healthy practical curiosity of how they worked. Best of all was the very end, when the children sat in a circle and passed round a plate of apple-slices, taking and eating one each in a kind of communion with nature, a shared celebration of their morning together with Nutmeg Puppets.
The show is supported by a beautiful printed colour children’s book, illustrated by Carol Liddiment, the story adapted from Meg’s script by Nicky Rowbottom. Nicky also wrote the impressive Teachers’ Pack, full of carefully-researched, up-to-the-minute information about apples and orchards, and ideas for project work.
‘Apple Pip’ richly deserves to reach an even wider young audience in 2004.