13th October, 2018
Review by Leonor Mozo Alonso
From the pages of this picture book (written by Pip Jones and magnificently illustrated by Sara Ogilvie), the little girl Izzy Gizmo came to life at the hand of five enthusiastic performers last Saturday at the Gala Theatre. Izzy, filled with curiosity, ideas and good will, invited the audience of children and their families on a journey of motivation, kindness, and the acceptance and overcoming of failure. To be fair, many of those in the audience did not even have to be invited; they were the creators of the lively songs which filled the Gala that morning, the true inventors of the show.
As it is, the performance would not have been possible without the collaboration of the many community centres throughout County Durham that worked with director Ruth Mary Johnson and musical director Jeremy Bradfield to create the songs which made up the gig. The Story-Gig was therefore not only refreshing because of the natural way it brought music closer to children (since for most of them this might have been their first gig), but also because of the origins of its songs.
The show, enthusiastically narrated by director Ruth Johnson, tells the story of a little girl who tries to build new, eccentric inventions without much success. With the help of her grandpa, who acts as her guide when she decides to help make a pair of wings for a crow that cannot fly, Izzy learns how to calm down and not to quit when success seems unattainable. The show was a huge hit with the children in attendance, delivering a positive message and celebrating diversity.
Children are exposed to lively, vigorous rhythms which will certainly not make them fall asleep but rather jump and shout at the characters – especially Grandpa, who introduces a very well fitted and relaxing jazzy feel to the whole performance – and simply have a good time. The performance is thus as participatory as a children’s show should be, but the fact that their very own community centres were involved in its production gives it the right touch, and ensures the children are delivered a show that is tailored for them.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at the Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.