Chris Wiegand (The Guardian, UK) reports that a trio of stories about Anansi, the spider from West African and Caribbean folklore, will be available free and with accompanying activities. The first episode of Anansi the Spider Re-spun, entitled Brother Anansi and Brother Snake, will be streamed on May 30 via Unicorn’s YouTube channel (and subsequent Saturdays in June).
Three tales about the mischievous folkloric webspinner, designed for audiences aged three to eight, will be streamed on Saturday mornings on the Guardian website and the Unicorn’s YouTube channel in May and June. The episodes, which will then be available on demand for three weeks, reunite the original cast of the production, Afia Abusham, Juliet Okotie and Sapphire Joy, who filmed themselves performing in their homes.
The theatre’s artistic director, Justin Audibert, who staged the original production, said the Unicorn’s first entirely digitally created theatre experience was designed to be a “treat” for young audiences confined by the lockdown. Audibert said that the Covid-19 restrictions had denied children “the sense of special occasion” you get from a trip to the theatre: “It’s strange for young people to suddenly not have that at all.” He said it is important for them to come together “with other young people at the same time”, as they will for the 11am launches of the streams. “There is nothing like seeing young people lining up outside to see one of your shows,” said Audibert, who hopes that Anansi the Spider Re-Spun will “create a sense of an event in your own home”.
The Unicorn keeps archive recordings of its past shows but Audibert said that a film shot with a static camera would not “capture the essence of what we made with the show”. Instead the creative team have embraced the limits of lockdown and explored how the three performers can tell a story virtually, collaborating with the independent production company Illuminations. Although filmed separately, the actors will sometimes be seen together in split-screen.
The three films come with a range of creative resources for parents and teachers, as well as activities including a singing workshop. Further digital productions, including for older children, are also planned.
Audibert said the many tales that have been told featuring Anansi, the trickster spider from west African and Caribbean folklore, have a “wicked fun” about them. Their morals are tangled inside the scheming hero’s spirited adventures. The director grew up hearing the stories and said “the thing I love about the character is that he always ends up going one step too far. That’s what being a child is – continually testing the boundaries. Anansi is a great lesson of what it is like, as a child, to be continually learning and growing.”
The first episode of Anansi the Spider Re-spun, entitled Brother Anansi and Brother Snake, will be streamed on 30 May. The next two episodes follow on successive Saturdays.