Snug, our free Christmas experience at The Point for Christmas 2022, has been created by Slot Machine Theatre. A magical winter storyworld for young children and their grown-ups, its entrancing world offers smells, sights and sounds with snuggly blankets, things to touch and feel, an original picture book and regular storytelling sessions. Come along and explore the space at any time, or join a storytelling session at 10.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm and 2.30pm from Tuesday to Sunday (not Mondays).
We sat down with the company’s Co-Artistic Director Nicola ‘Nicky’ Blackwell to find out a bit more about Snug.
How did Snug come about?
Charlotte [Hall, Creative Director at The Point] made non-specific noises while we were at The Point’s sister venue The Berry Theatre last year with One Snowy Night so it was working out whether it was something that would be lovely but may not happen or was something that actually we could make happen. It became apparent that it was going to happen in February and March of this year. Charlotte had an ambition to have something that was highly accessible in terms of socio-economic groups, to try and invite folks who might not go to the theatre that much or at all, or might be having a really tough year. There was also that desire to have something that catered for very early years as well as older children and everyone who came along, including adults, could enjoy it and get something from it.
What does the experience involve?
We found that a commission we’d had from Discover Children’s Story Centre a couple of years ago was a good model; make something really engaging with amazing visuals and with some activity too. We thought it would be nice to have a book, too. There were some shocking statistics which came out this year about how many households don’t have books and that led us to say right, we’re going to go for a book. It’s our first book and we didn’t go into this with the ambition to write one but it’s a part of the whole experience.
We make a lot of work for family audiences so we’re very mindful that when audiences come and see our shows it may very well be the first time that a child or a parent has been to a live piece of theatre. And we feel that responsibility quite strongly and that drives a lot of what we make. We’re always thinking about accessibility, who our audience are, and how we focus what we’re making on them. Then we add people on the fringes of that, so a slightly wider age bracket, approachable for 3 year olds and still not patronising if you’re 8. And it needs to feel rich and resonant if you’re an adult too. You don’t always achieve it, but that’s our checklist.
How important is accessibility?
The Snug storytelling session is Makaton enhanced and when we added that we did think, yes, this is helping me understand the story a little bit more. Our takeaway from the accessibility information we read during the pandemic was not to try to do everything, select accessibility points and do those as well as you can within the resources that you have. The move is towards embedding that stuff and a few key words in Makaton. We have also made it low octane as a choice. We’re so keen to see how people will respond. All feedback – I think it will have a further life as a piece – will be so valuable to us.
Snug has a ‘green’ message and its set has been constructed from recycled or recyclable materials. Has it been a challenge to build it sustainably?
It's quite an ambitious endeavour and it has presented a number of challenges, primarily, really trying to follow the Theatre Green Book. We are all members of XR and always try to make things sustainable but it’s a really different proposition when you work by the book; it focuses your mind and makes you look at things in a very specific way. Just having done this is going to inform other projects. It’s opening my eyes to fundamentally different ways of working.
We pushed back against having snow as the focus of the show because when was the last time people really experienced proper snow? It’s December and there are still leaves on the trees because our seasons have changed hugely. We don’t even do snow day planning any more for our shows which is very sobering. So Snug is set in a snow-free environment because of climate change. The fact that animals hibernate is in there - bats hibernate, hedgehogs and dormice too. So we have little bits of natural history speckled through.
Slot Machine are also the company behind Kipper's Snowy Day, this year's Christmas show at our sister venue The Berry Theatre. The production runs from 10-30 December.