Handa's Hen


Last month S and I were invited to Salisbury Playhouse to watch Handa’s Hen, an adaptation from the book by Eileen Browne. We hadn’t been to the Playhouse since S’s birthday last year, so we were quite excited.

For those who haven’t read the book (I hadn’t, but S had!) the story is of Handa and her friend Akeyo, who go looking for Grandma’s black hen, Mondi. They find two fluttering butterflies, three stripy mice, four little lizards… but where is Mondi?

The performance was in the Salberg Studio, which is a small, intimate room and perfect for little people as there were cushions laid out on the floor for them. To begin with, S was feeling a bit shy and wanted to sit with me on the seats at the back (hence her pouty look in the photo above) but as soon as the performance started she bravely went down to sit on a cushion so as to get a better view.

Throughout the performance Handa and Akeyo found different animals while they were looking for Mondi, and these were brought out close to the audience. The butterflies flew above the children’s heads; the mice squeaked their hello’s and so on. S’s face was a picture; she was so excited to see the different animals, especially when it transpired that both Handa and Akeyo had a lizard on their backs! All in all, the show featured 55 wonderful puppets and S loved all of them.

The Playhouse usually has a couple of productions for children during school holidays; this one was during half term. S has been to the Playhouse several times, and still talks about the show we saw for her birthday last year. Handa’s Hen is still a favourite topic of conversation, especially the butterflies and singing frogs we saw! They have several fun outdoor productions coming up during the Easter holidays too; you can see more on their website. And of course, with Salisbury Festival coming up in May, we’re spoilt for choice and hoping to fill our diaries with all sorts of wonderment!

I love that we are developing this little tradition of going to the Playhouse together. We’ve never been to the cinema together, but we’ve seen several brilliant performances – including the fantastic pantomime. I love this article from the Guardian about the importance of children’s theatre; I feel it’s important for S to go to plays and join in with drama groups. With schools increasingly pushed to teach children how to pass tests, I want her to learn that her imagination and her voice are just as important as her ability to sit an exam or play a sport. I went to a grammar school and can remember feeling that the only viable career option was to be a doctor or a solicitor or something else that was ever so professional and involved wearing a suit. I want S to grow up knowing that a career in the arts is just as possible, and just as valid – and possibly more gratifying.


Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.

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