A few months ago I spotted on North East Family Fun’s blog a guide to the exciting events taking place during the 2016 Juice Festival. I have to admit, the Juice Festival wasn’t a programme I was overly familiar with so we were keen this year to find out more and book onto one of the events which spanned across the October half term school holiday.
But which one to chose!!! There were so many to pick from including original plays, science shows, interactive computer workshops and even a psychadelic dance show based on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We like quirky and weird so they all sounded like something that would be right up our street and reminded me a lot of the Just So festival programme. With this is mind we set about perusing the programme.
The Vampire Rabbit
After working out the best time for us we decided to book to see “The Vampire Rabbit” in the city centre at the 2pm showing. This original play was described as a “Journey through the historic Mining Institute for a promenade performance based on the Vampire Rabbit of Newcastle, a mystery that has baffled residents for over 100 years. A unique, gothic, immersive performance which combines circus, puppetry, storytelling and digital technology and featuring live, original music”. It sounded a little bit creepy but as there was an adult spookier showing in the evening it surely couldn’t be too bad!!
Tickets were £5 for adults and £3 for a child and were booked through the Juice festival website. The day before we received an email from Circus Central who produced the play reminding us of the time and advising that a list of paid tickets was at the door so no need to print off the tickets. I thought this was nice touch and was looking forward to seeing if they could pull off the impressive description in the blurb.
The Mining Institute
We headed into town and after a bit of retail therapy in Debenhams. I realised I didn’t have a clue where the Mining Institute was though knew it was roughly in the direction of the Central Station. I remember that my Mam, Elizabeth, had been on a tour during the Heritage open days so I quickly gave her a call and she said it was next door to the Lit and Phil along from the Central Station. Mam to the rescue!
Mining Institute easily located we were greeted at the door by a very friendly lady dressed a ringmaster who welcomed us to the event and told us to wait until the 50 members of the audience were assembled before making our way up to the hall. As we chatted we found out that Circus Central have a studio in Sandyford where people can learn the skills and also they head out to run workshops for school and organised groups. With my Snowy Owl hat on I took her email to find out more for the Brownies!! Sounds perfect for the Circus Skills badge and there’s no way you will ever see me attempt the stilts without an ambulance on standby!
Audience assembled, we were ushered upstairs to the hall. Wow!! As soon as we entered I really was in awe of this room and the building in general. It’s truly beautiful with gorgeous stained glass, wood panelling, and just oozes with history of industrial Newcastle. Cannot believe I haven’t been in here before!
Adults were seated on the chairs and children (the VIP’s!) were asked to sit on the floor. It really was intimate with a three piece band at the back of us and the performance area right in front. Nothing like being close to the action. The lights were quite gloomy in greens and purple and the scenery was unsettling with a large desk with mysterious glass jars filled with potions and crystal balls on them.
This combined with the live choral music definitely gave a really gothic feel and I noticed Abigail jumped up onto Imogen’s knee for sisterly protection.
The basic premise of the story was that a girl Charlotte was looking for her sister Jane who had gone to work from Alnwick to Westgate Road a few months ago and hadn’t been since since. Charlotte in her despair had called upon the help of a detective agency to help track her down. The detective’s assistant was sure that a Vampire rabbit was at the heart of the disappearance but was brushed off by his boss who declared it as nonsence. At this point of the show there was lots of interaction with the children and the assistant stole the show with his one-liners.
Moving on to the next scene we saw Jane who was working with a doctor who was secretly experimenting on rabbits to create life! Think Frankenstein!! The rabbits played by children each took it in turns to perform a lovely aerial display using the cloth draped from the ceiling. All this to a live performance of ‘Bright Eyes’ not a dry eye in the house at this point!!
As with all good fairy stories this one had a happy ending with the rabbit being urged to run free to the town moor, and Charlotte and her sister being reunited!! The evil Doctor met his match with the vampire rabbit which he had created!
It really was a fantastic performance and for £12 for the three of us an absolute bargain. Each and every one of the young performers was believable, talented and the script was top notch with the fantastic setting only adding to the atmosphere.
Visiting the Vampire Rabbit
As we came out of the Mining Institute, I took the girls down to the back lane of St Nicholas’ cathedral to see the strange vampire rabbit statue which hangs above a doorway of the Cathedral buildings. The statue itself has been argued over it’s origin and one explanation is that it’s a hare with it’s ears put on backwards by mistake…I prefer the theory given in today’s play any day!!