Q&A with Metta Theatre


We talk to Poppy Burton-Morgan, Artistic Director of Metta Theatre about their show The King of Tiny Things, showing during half term 29-30 Oct at M Shed.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind The King of Tiny Things?

It’s an adaptation of an existing book by award-winning children’s author Jeanne Willis and Bristol based illustrator Gwen Millward. We were given the book as a present and read it to our young son night after night after night (children love repetition). So after 6 months I’d pretty much worked through every possible idea for turning it into a show!

What can audience’s expect from seeing the show?

On one level it’s quite a simple story about two young sisters camping out in their garden who meet a magical Fairy King who introduces them to a series of insects and mini-beasts in need of their help. At a deeper level it also explores our fears and attitudes towards change and difference. Told through juggling, acrobatics, hand-balancing, stilt-walking puppetry and song. Also the costumes are a show in their own right!

How are circus skills used to tell the story?

One of the earliest ideas was to use a different circus discipline to represent each of the insects – so we meet a stilt-walking Daddy Long Legs, a hand-balancing caterpillar, a juggling slug and a trio of acrobatic baby bats. As the piece developed and other themes were layered onto the piece – fear of change and growing up. The circus also became a powerful metaphor for facing our fears and overcoming them. One of the two sisters goes on a big journey from fear and shyness to acceptance of change and a new-found confidence and that story is one that’s really exciting to tell through the medium of circus because it’s fun to acknowledge the fear beneath the shiny circus fa├žade. Because it’s the characters themselves performing the ‘tricks’ – by allowing those characters moments of fear and doubt we let the audience in and hopefully create a lovely complicity where they’re very aware of the potential for things to go wrong so they end up really rooting for them to succeed.

What has been most challenging about bringing The King of Tiny Things to the stage?

In some ways it seems like a simple and straightforward production but the combination of skills – high level circus coupled with singing, acting and puppetry – has challenged the performers hugely. Also the costumes, while stunning, are also very structural and only allow certain types of movement within them, so they have taken a lot of time to get used to.

What message would you like people to take away with them after seeing the show?

Oh there are so many… We should celebrate insects (and the environment) rather than fearing them. We should celebrate difference rather than fearing it. It’s ok to feel scared. Everything changes. I wish I could jump off a shed… and obviously I will go to circus school and train for 10 years before I attempt such a feat.

What has been your single best piece of audience feedback/reaction so far?

Our three year old is no longer afraid of insects, and in fact actively goes out of his way to rescue them now! And similar stories from parents of children who’ve seen the show.

Have you visited Bristol before?

Many many times – I come from Bradford-on-Avon originally, and my Co-Artistic Director and husband William Reynolds comes from near Frome in Somerset. We’ve in fact spent the last 5 years talking about when we’ll relocate Metta Theatre to Bristol so watch this space…

Finally, describe The King of Tiny Things in 5 words or less…

Richly layered magical circus storytelling