‘POPNOCCHIO’, is a hip-hop version of classic fairytale Pinocchio which has been produced by Skool of Street and WingZ Theatre works; a collective of urban arts practitioners based in Blackpool. It previews at Blackpool Sixth Form Theatre on Saturday 24 September, then plays for just one night at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre on Wednesday 28 September (there’s a third showing at Blackpool & The Fylde College Theatre on Friday 30 September which is not open to the public).
I was lucky enough to attend one of the first run-throughs of this production and to see the cast of young people; all aged between 7-17, working through their moves, their rhymes and songs and the impressive full-cast set pieces. Amongst this group of vibrant young people there’s world champion dancers but also those who are just starting out on their relationship with urban arts, the sense of the group being a single unit is clear though and they are brilliant at sharing the energy and, after a summer of working together on the piece, at looking out for each other. The piece has been professionally pulled together by a core team of adults in the form of choreography, character development and storytelling arcs, impressively designed and executed sets, music and MC hype.
Artistic directors Samantha Bell and Aishley Docherty feel passionately about the relatively new form of hiphop theatre that is (body)popping up all over the UK currently, and the role of hiphop performance as a positive, empowering activity for young people to get involved with. They believe that giving locals the chance to immerse themselves in a fun, friendly but professional environment where self-expression is valued above all else is paramount and hope that Blackpool audiences will show their support of this initiative by coming to watch the performances.
They say:“We live it and love it, It’s a lifestyle and a movement. No matter what people think of it, Hiphop is very powerful; it makes people look and it makes them listen, and above all it is raw. It is important to us to display just how compelling, and inspiring HipHop arts can be.”
This production has largely come about due to an Arts Council England Grant. They said of the process: “We’ve been working on this proposal for a very long time! But it’s because we feel so strongly that Blackpool needs to see this; we want to shake-up the common misconceptions within our culture, that Hiphop is related to crime and gangs. We could tell you a brand new story, but Pinocchio feels right, its moral messages are something that many feel strongly about, and this production of ‘Popnocchio’ is us saying, we are here, we have a message, and look at what we can do with this story – all through the form of urban arts.”
‘Popnocchio’ is set to be an explosive extravaganza of funk, breakdance, animation and illusion, mime, beatboxing, physical theatre, spoken word and mime that has something for all ages.
To book tickets for the performance at Blackpool Grand Theatre on Wednesday 28 September, visit their website, call 01253 290 190 or book in person via the Box Office at the venue on Church St. Tickets costs just £7.
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