There’s a buzz in the air at Polka Theatre…and it’s not just the swarm of wasps descending on The Giant Jam Sandwich. Touring company, New Perspectives brings John Vernon Lord’s classic family favourite to life with ingenious creativity and modern twists, thrilling packed audiences during a sell-out run in Wimbledon.
One hot summer’s day, four million wasps invade the village of Itching Down. They’re noisy, nasty and don’t mind who they sting. Everyone panics but Bap the baker rallies the industrious citizens of Itching Down to knead and bake the biggest wasp trap ever!
Three dynamic actors portray a host of engaging characters, entertaining an audience spanning the generations, from babes in arms through to grandparents. Their energetic performance elicits squeals of delight from youngsters and provides jokes to provoke belly laughs from the adults. There’s singing and dancing with stompingly catchy tunes and live instrumentals. Inventive use of lighting, sound and props captivates the audience with vivid depictions of fluffy dough, skies darkening under a swarm of wasps, and the arduous challenge of sawing through the crispy crust of the ginormous loaf. There’s even a flying tractor! The immersive narrative is enthralling with audience participation deftly handled by the cast – including non-scripted interjections from the enthusiastic young crowd.
The Giant Jam Sandwich is New Perspectives’ second visit to Polka. The company’s Executive Director, Sally Anne Tye values the theatre’s crucial role “at the forefront of hosting and producing a rich theatre and creative learning programme for children” and sees it as a “natural home” for New Perspectives’ work.
Polka Theatre is indeed an enchanting venue. Opened in Wimbledon in 1979, it was the country’s first purpose-built children’s theatre. On walking through the beautifully carved wooden doors into the main auditorium, the excitement of anticipation familiar to older audience members is heightened by the knowledge that this could be the very first taste of theatre for many of the wide-eyed little people bustling in alongside. The welcoming tone is set perfectly inside the main auditorium, with 300 plush velvet seats tailored for children but still comfortable for adults, shallow stairs with easily reachable bannisters, and colourful staging glowing softly under spotlights suspended from ornate metalwork arching across the roof. The focus on children is evident throughout Polka with a bright indoor play area including rocking horses and dressing-up chest, an outdoor playground, café with train-carriage cubicles, and toilets located immediately outside the auditorium.
Building on this unique heritage, Polka Theatre has ambitious plans for extensive redevelopment this year, to ensure the venue continues to charm and captivate the next generation of theatre goers. Future Polka will redefine its visitor experience and provide a modern environment in which artistic excellence can flourish. Key features will include the creation of a National Centre for Early Years Theatre, including a new auditorium for under 6s, a multi-purpose rehearsal space and a new Creative Learning Studio. The plans will also support Polka’s desire to increase its sustainability and financial resilience. Read more about their plans here, or visit the Polka Theatre website.