Review: Shebaa’s Adventure to Jopplety How

Concrete Youth’s online multi-sensory production of Shebaa’s Adventure to Jopplety How is a lovely tale of self-love and affirmation tailored to audiences living with profound and multiple learning disabilities. Having interviewed Artistic Director Daniel Swift recently about how accessibility lies at the heart of this company, it was great to preview this show and see how that commitment to access and enjoyment for all takes shape within a Concrete Youth production.

The story? Shebaa the sheep is different. She has no wool! Feeling down about her obvious difference, Sheeba sets off on a journey to seek answers and solutions from the Wisdom Cow in Jopplety How. Through the magic of green screen, we’re taken from library to the great outdoors and beyond and Shebaa, played with an endearing gentleness and a good dose of bouncy energy by Jodie Hay, faces a few challenges on the way. She’s helped along by a variety of animals, all played with relish by James Lewis-Knight. There’s Harvey the helpful horse with a can-do attitude, Pepper, a very helpful bird with an impeccable sense of direction and a charming Alpaca named Alfrieda.

Written by Elle Douglas and directed by Belle Streeton, this production offers both the classic markers of good stories for young people and a fantastic variety of accessible features. The story features familiar themes of friendship and problems to overcome and lands very nicely on a vital moral message. It’s a tale told through neat little rhyming couplets with a few cheeky moments of humour, like Shebaa being described as wool-less ‘from tum to bum’ – certain to gain a few giggles from youngsters!

The commitment to access for all is beautifully evident throughout too. Prior to watching, audiences will have access to:

  • A programme for the show.
  • A pre-show guide so audiences who are more easily distressed can prepare themselves on what to expect.
  • A list of sensory items to use during the show.
  • All of the above in large print.

All characters sign as they speak and Hays is both Shebaa and narrator, meaning she narrates between scenes and remains visible signing in the bottom left of the screen while Shebaa takes centre stage. The production’s no-fuss approach to costuming, using only a little face paint and colour-appropriate clothing, also means that any eager audience member might easily recreate some of the characters or a whole new one after watching…

Audiences are also asked to settle down to enjoy this story equipped with a list of sensory loot and the use of those props allows for some great interaction with the story as the audience are encouraged to rustle through their collection to find wool for the texture of a comforting blanket or a shaker for a rainy atmosphere. Helpfully pausing the action for around ten seconds, often with the jolly music or sound effect continuing, written instructions are displayed along with some discussion prompts to allow time for audience members to experiment with those found objects to bring characters and key moments to life in 3D terms.

And what does the Wisdom Cow have to say when Shebaa finally arrives in Jopplety How? Well, the wise old fellow has some lessons for her and helps her to see things in a new light, bringing the story to a beautifully affirming close with Shebaa declaring ‘I’d rather be me’ – and what could be a better parting message for young audiences than that? An empowering story complete with universal themes and characters we can root for, Shebaa’s Adventure to Jopplety How offers up a lovely 25 minutes of entertainment for young people to enjoy from their own homes.

Concrete Youth’s Shebaa’s Adventure to Jopplety How launches online on Friday 31st July 2020. You can sign up to watch for free here.

Creative Team also includes: Editor: My Girl Films. Creative Producer: Daniel Swift. Audience Development: Annabelle Moorman. Makaton Consultant: Prit Chouhan

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