Comedy theatre fun for children

February 27 2015

SWINGING into the spotlight is Monkey Trousers - a theatre company coined by two Bishopston mums, aimed specifically at children.

SWINGING into the spotlight is Monkey Trousers - a theatre company coined by two Bishopston mums, aimed specifically at children.

Combing an imaginative story line with fantastic visuals, Fran Lewis, 36, and Charlotte Whitten, 40, have teamed up to create a series of shows, which take youngsters on a comedy adventure.

The duo not only direct, but also perform, and are supported by a group of local parents, fondly known as the "other monkeys".

'Mr Gotalot's Gotalot Shop' - which will premièring at the Kelvin Players studio in April - tells the story of a shop owner who sells anything and everything.

Mr Gotalot - a puppet handmade by Charlotte - works with shop assistant Sidney (Charlotte) to provide their customers with what they need before the conniving landlady Ms Barnet (Fran) arrives to collect the rent.

The pair plan to host three to four shows a year, with each 'series' featuring a guest customer. Upcoming show, 'The Pants of Power', will feature Dominick Fanning - winner of the best actor award at the Bristol One Act Festival - as Super Alan, who visits the shop to have his broken pants repaired so he can rescue a cat.

The performance is aimed at children aged three to nine.

Fran, who crafted the storyline, has created an imaginative world for children to step inside, including plenty of humour to appeal to parents, while Charlotte has designed an impressive set to bring the show alive.

Despite neither of the women having run businesses before, both will be bringing a wealth of acting experience to the new theatre company.

Charlotte started her career on stage doing stand-up and sketch comedy. She then worked in TV production at the BBC's Natural History Unit for eight years, but realised it "wasn't very funny".

She has trained with outstanding names in puppetry including Marc Parrett of the Bath Puppet Workshop, and also undertook in a course with puppet designer and fabricator Wendy Froud, who has worked on films such as Labyrinth.

She has also performed most recently in the Kelvin Players' production of Lilies on the Land, and did the puppetry for Kelvin Players' production of James and the Giant Peach.

Fran, who has a masters in creative writing under her belt, writes fiction for children and young adults, and has done non-professional acting for a numbers of years.

The pair, who also live on the same street, got to know each other through the Kelvin Players.

Charlotte, a mother of two boys, aged five and two, said: "It just sparked from a conversation we had at the end of last year. We had both been thinking about doing something, and we just had a moment when we both thought, 'right, let's do this!' and before we knew it, we were setting ourselves a date for our first performance.

"We wanted to set up something that's in the local community, run by local people, and is affordable.

"I can't wait for my boys to see me perform and hopefully feel inspired by what I do."

Fran, who has one girl aged four, said: "It's been hard work, but we're just taking each day as it comes.

"It's been a challenge fitting Monkey Trousers around parenting, and it's involved a few late nights, but we're making it work and we hope to inspire parents to set-up businesses themselves.

She added: "I also really like the idea of children playing the characters from Mr Gotalot's Shop in the playground, and people singing our theme tune as they walk down Gloucester Road."

The show will run over Easter weekend (April 4-5) at 11am and 3pm to suit the younger audience. Tickets are £7 each for ages three and above, and free for toddlers on laps. A family ticket is available for £25 for four seats. Tickets can be bought through the Tobacco Factory Theatre box office: www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com or over the phone: 0117 902 0344. For information about the show, see www.monkeytrouserstheatre.com or email: monkeytrouserstheatre@gmail.com

Fran, Mr Gotalot & Charlotte