This spring, to celebrate the first year of their Write Now writing development programme, The Berry Theatre hosts The Storytelling Festival. Running for a fortnight over the Easter holidays (Monday 10th to Saturday 22nd April), the festival will feature an array of performances, activities and workshops for audiences and writers to take part in and enjoy.
The festival’s highlight will be an eight day library tour of in-house production Ellie’s Extraordinary Adventure (10th to 20th April). This newly commissioned play written by Matt Beames will be performed at libraries throughout Eastleigh borough and Southampton, and promises to take families on a storytelling adventure.
Ellie’s brother Ollie is always reading but when he doesn’t come downstairs for tea one day, she discovers he has literally fallen inside a book and become lost! Accidentally following, Ellie begins an epic quest through a myriad of stories to find her brother and the book they need to get them home…
The creative team behind this new play have recently cast Hedge End native Kelly Blackburn in the part of Ellie. Whilst growing up in Hedge End and studying for A Levels at Barton Peveril College, Kelly performed in many amateur productions both at The Berry Theatre and its sister venue The Point, Eastleigh. She then moved to London to train at The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, graduating with a degree in acting. Trained in film and television, as well as live theatre, Kelly has toured as the Wicked Witch in Dick Whittington and has taken part in Theatre 503’s festival supporting the movement Mental Health Matters, alongside appearing in several short films.
Rehearsals for the production commence at the beginning of April, upon which Kelly will return to her home town to take on this new role. As well as starring as Ellie, Kelly will take on the challenge of a number of roles, as we are introduced to a host of characters along Ellie’s quest to find the book that will take her and Ollie home in time for tea!
On her recent casting success Kelly says,
"I'm thrilled to have been cast in Ellie's Extraordinary Adventure, and am really looking forward to beginning rehearsals with the team. Everyone seems to have lots of interesting plans about how to bring each of the separate characters to life, so I'm excited to see how all our ideas come together to create many different fantasy worlds!"
The play’s director Dan Hill says,
“I am thrilled to be bringing Ellie’s Extraordinary Adventure to libraries throughout Eastleigh Borough and Southampton. Written by Hedge End writer Matt Beames and performed by Kelly who grow up here and made entirely in Eastleigh, it really demonstrates the remarkable talent we have in this area. I’m excited to share with audiences a wonderful adventure that will be truly extraordinary.”
Other festival highlights include Writer’s Voice (10th April), an evening of recitals by Creative Writing students from Winchester University; a Writing for Children workshop (11th April) with award-winning author Mark Lowery; and a reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid by The Berry Youth Theatre (21st & 22nd April).
The venue’s new Story Shuffle app, developed by Tec Hub associate Niall Fraser a.k.a. TinRaven, digitising the story of Sir Bevis of Hampton as written by hundreds of local primary school children, will also launch during the festivities in participating libraries.
Suitable for ages 3+, the play will be full of puppetry, song and storytelling and promises to be the perfect holiday treat for all the family this Easter.
Tickets for Ellie’s Extraordinary Adventure are £5 / £4 concessions and can be booked by calling The Berry Theatre’s Box Office on 023 8065 2333 or online here where you can also find a full list of library locations and dates.