The Nightingale at Blackpool Grand Theatre


Wednesday afternoon, straight from work, is not usually a time that I head to the theatre. Nonetheless, I borrowed my nephew and jogged through town in the glorious winter sunshine to my favourite building in Blackpool, The Grand Theatre.

On the bill today was storytelling, puppetry and animation. My junior co-author joined me fresh from school and we settled in our seats with pop and sweets.

The Nightingale is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor and the Nightingale and is influence by other tales and fables.

I was thrilled to be able to take Luke for his first ever theatre experience and after the initial excitement of seeing The Grand’s wonderful painted ceiling and chatting about composers we read through our programmes and looked forward to the show to come.

Mark and Aya, the people behind the puppets, spoke to the audience, asking for advice about what to get the king for his birthday.  The set was illuminated softly, decorated with what looked like an enchanted forest and the show started with nursemaid/pantomime dame Barbara, preparing for a birthday celebration. The King, her charge, was abandoned at birth and handed a royal title.

We met a small boy puppet, mastered by Mark.  This stroppy and ungrateful King threw away all of his presents, aside from a new crown. Lucidia, the Kitchen maid had knitted him a scarf and, even though made of wood, you could see the pain of rejection conveyed through slight but evocative moments.

A life size version of Lucidia was then portrayed though Aya, wearing an identical mask, who then danced across the stage delicately,  fluttering a folded paper like a bird.

Lucidia turned into the nightingale of the story and befriended the king, showing him the love and friendship every child deserves.  She provided a soothing and melodic sound track to his royal life. The introduction of an all-singing and dancing electronic bird, however, took over the affections of the King and the nightingale was pushed aside.

Once the novelty wore off and the iNightingale blew a fuse, the king missed his friendship and went in search of his soul mate.  Eventually, they flew together, swooping gaily over a silhouetted Landscape.

Everything about The Nightingale was beautiful. After the show, my imaginative, creatively brilliant nephew and I discussed the characters and the story in detail. He echoed everything that I had seen and felt through the performance and really understood the relationship between the King, the nightingale and Lucidia which pays great homage to the skill of Horse and Bamboo, an internationally renowned theatre company based locally in Rossendale, Lancashire.

The music was magical, Lucidia wanted to be friends with the king and it was brill because they became friends and they played together at the end as birds. [I think] the king saw that real things are better than computer games

Luke, aged 6

The Nightingale was performed at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre.  You can find more information about the latest shows on altblackpool and by visiting the Grand’s website or tweeting: @Grand_Theatre.

Look out for other productions by Horse and Bamboo. You can also follow them on twitter: @HorseandBandboo

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