A fantastical story reimagining the motivation behind Stephenson’s Rocket looks set to launch an explosion of inventions this half term. Sam Wonfor counts down to Rocket Girl.
An inspiring tale designed to ignite the minds of youngsters while entertaining the whole family is on the launch pad for this half term break.
Rocket Girl tells the story of Georgina Stephenson, the lesser known sister of legendary Geordie inventor George (I mean, don’t feel stupid if you’ve never heard of her, she’s 100% fictional) and her quest to bring cinder toffee to the masses.
So determined is she to capture some Crunchie delights for her village – and earn a pretty penny into the bargain – Georgina (played by Jude Nelson) sets about building a rocket to take her to the moon. Where the toffee dragons live.
The railroads will have to wait, this little lass has got confectionary recipes to grab.
Brought to the stage by the team who gave family audiences the wonder of Walter (The British Theatre Guide’s Best Children’s Show of 2017) Rocket Girl is a bit of a revival.
Back in 2018 a one-off family show called Rocket Man saw a young George Stephenson (also played by Jude) do his best to build a rocket to get to the moon on the recommendation of his Nan, who reckoned it was the place to find some cinder toffee. Set years before Stephenson’s Rocket revolutionised the railways it was a wondrous tale of youthful ambition from a boy who dared to dream big.
The eagle eyed among you will have already spotted the main difference, but let’s hear from the play’s writer Steve Byron who can spell it out.
“We always thought when Jude was doing the original piece that it should be the voice of a girl rather than a boy. So we decided to change the character from George to Georgina – George’s fictional sister.
“George does appear in the story, but it’s Georgina that leads it,” he adds.
Bringing the play back for a five-day run at Alphabetti Theatre in Newcastle (February 18-22) gave Steve and director Ali Prichard the opportunity to develop the play and dig deeper into the mechanics behind it.
“We opened the story up much wider, making it even more fantastical and giving Jude much more to play with. I did a lot more research into the science and engineering side of things,” says Steve.
“It’s an opportunity to feed into the drive to get more girls interested in studying the STEM subjects and also an important message to send out about women and girls telling the stories.
“The story is still very much rooted in the wonder of the sciences as Georgina tries to work out how she can get to the moon to get the cinder toffee and save the village.”
A one-girl show, Jude takes on a number of other characters as the tale is told – all bar one. Juniper the moon-dwelling toffee dragon.
“As soon as that character was written, both Ali and I said ‘well, that’s obviously for Paula, isn’t it?’”
That would be actor Paula Penman whose has voiced the sweet-toothed Juniper.
“She sounds absolutely brilliant,” says Steve. “
As do the post-show workshops which have been organised in collaboration with the brilliant Little Inventors, which exists to inspire imagination by taking the amazing ideas of children seriously.
“We’ve brought them in to run sessions after the shows,” says Alphabetti’s executive producer, Esther Fearn.
“We really wanted to provide that encouragement and inspiration around science and engineering so we’re giving them the chance to follow in Georgina’s footsteps after the show. They can dream up something fantastical and then have someone help them make it so they can take it home.
“We’re hoping all the young people will be coming out of the show pumped and inspired – and the workshop will allow them to develop their own story and carry that feeling of inspiration home.”
Rocket Girl plays Alphabetti Theatre at 1pm from February 18 to 22 with a free hour-long Little Inventors workshop afterwards. For tickets, visit the website. For more information, take a look at www.alphabettitheatre.co.ukBack to articles