All the fun of the Frost Fair in Frostiana, Blueprint Festival’s family show at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Writer and director Kate Lovell is the creative force behind Blueprint Festival’s family show, Frostiana, 21 - 24 September. With designer Gabe Gilmour, she presents a sensory environment, specially built in a space inside the building of Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, where audiences will be led by a performer on a short interactive journey inspired by Frost Fairs. Frost Fairs were a common sight in the 17th century when the River Thames regularly froze over. As soon as the river became solid, sailors and bargemen temporarily unable to work joined traders and entertainers to set up makeshift shops and entertainments in tents on the firm ice. Visitors from all sections of society flocked to play nine-pins, have a go at ice-sliding and feast on ox-roast and gingerbread. Lovell is an associate artist at Graeae, the influential theatre company that champions d/Deaf and disabled actors and contributes to the creative leadership team at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. With Frostiana, a 15-minute taster for a longer show she is developing, Lovell presents an experience suitable for anyone who might benefit from a more relaxed environment. Singer and performer Elinor Machen-Fortune, last seen in Gaeae’s This Woven O, directed by Lovell for this year’s Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, will lead small audience groups of two to six at a time through Frostiana. The experience will include tactile elements, taste and interactivity as well as live performance. London-based set designer Gilmour, who studied design at Wimbledon College of Arts and acting at Mountview, is interested in collaboration between performers and designers. Gilmour says: “I am delighted to be board this project as part of Blueprint Festival and to design a snippet from the incredible once-in-a-lifetime event that was a London Frost Fair.” Lovell is a disabled and neurodivergent writer, committed to making theatre with, for and about marginalised people and shining a light on less explored subjects. Her short play Selfie was showcased as part of Graeae’s online Crips with Chips at Home in 2021 and she is currently working as dramaturg and writer on the disabled-led project Define Your Journey, an Arts Council funded online interactive experience. Lovell says: "I've always been fascinated by the Frost Fairs and I've long wanted to create a sensory-led piece of theatre. The Frost Fairs delighted all the senses, tastes, smells, sounds, music, and Frostiana will bring them to life. It's a concept I'm excited to develop further." These performances are part of Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s Blueprint Festival of new ideas, which runs 12 - 24 September. The Blueprint programme includes 12 mostly new works of non-traditional forms of theatre to be performed in and around the recently Grade II-listed building. From the basement to the roof and the car park, as well as the auditorium and foyer. There will be immersive and devised pieces, staged play readings, a dramatic design-led production on a revolving cal set of 31 scenes in 31 minutes, Shakespeare on film and digital and musical innovation. Tickets for Frostiana are free, but advanced booking is required. For more details about Centre Stage and the full programme of the Blueprint Festival, click here.

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