Molly wants to be a grown-up so what does she do? She puts on a marvellous moustache – a bushy black one which curls up at the ends and sometimes, because it’s fixed on with elastic, goes a bit skew-whiff. This way, from the comfort of her crazy kitchen – which looks as if it were designed by the artist Mondrian – she is able to explore a jungle, fly around the world, become a famous artist, venture into outer space and become an inventor who invents a fabulous invention. The fabulous invention, involving flashing ‘Mollycules’ and big tubes stretching from the back of the theatre to the front, had an audience of youngsters at Arts Centre Washington in a state of high excitement – to say nothing of their parents and teachers. Molly’s Marvellous Moustache is one of the 70 shows being performed at 22 venues around the region as part of the TakeOff Festival of children’s theatre which began on Monday and runs until October 23. Billed as England’s leading children’s theatre festival, it started in London 29 years ago but transferred to the North East 17 years ago. It is now produced by Theatre Hullabaloo, the Darlington-based children’s theatre company whose creative producer, Miranda Thain, strives to make sure it goes smoothly.
Mark Savage Photography
Ceri Ashford as Molly in Molly’s Marvellous Moustache Before yesterday’s performance of Molly’s Marvellous Moustache by Leeds-based Fidget Theatre, Miranda explained why the benefits of the festival outweigh all the problems it throws up. “Logistically it’s really complicated but it is also really important because these shows are going everywhere, from places like the Gala Theatre to nurseries and community centres and church halls and everywhere in between. “We have a huge following so nearly all our shows are sold out for the week. “We’ve got work for very young children, as young as six months, but about two thirds of our audiences are from schools. “One of the really important things this festival does is offer an integrated bus and theatre ticket so we can bring in parties from across the dales and right across the region. “There are children in our region who never have any cultural opportunities because they’re in remote parts of Weardale.”
Mark Savage Photography
Miranda Thain, creative producer of Theatre Hullabaloo, right, with audience members at Molly’s Marvellous Moustache TakeOff Festival is supported by Arts Council England and Durham County Council and there are lots of partner organisations, like Arts Centre Washington, who help to make it happen. The support is welcomed by Miranda and her colleagues but also by teachers. “Creativity is being increasingly marginalised in schools,” said Miranda. “There are many teachers who recognise its value but it’s hard to argue against an education system which doesn’t value it in the same way as it did 10 years ago.” Theatre Hullabaloo and its work will pack an even greater punch from next year when its new theatre, The Hullaballoon, opens in Darlington. An autumn opening is scheduled for the building on the former fire station site in Darlington where it will sit alongside the old Civic Theatre which is itself being restored to its former glories before reopening as the Darlington Hippodrome. “The Hullaballoon is to be a flagship theatre for children and families and the only one of its type north of London,” said Miranda. “We have been …