For National Storytelling Week, we speak to Mia Jerome, actress and theatre maker who has created new show The Instrumentals, touring around the UK until June 2023.
Can you start by introducing yourself and your creative background?
My name is Mia Jerome and I am an actress and theatre maker. I started my creative journey when I studied creative writing and television at Kingston University. I began on the spoken word scene and loved being on the stage, so I decided to train as an actress. I graduated from Fourth Monkey in 2017 and I have been working as an actress, writer and director ever since. I am the Associate Director for Punchdrunk Enrichment, and the founder and Artistic Director of Blouse and Skirt! Theatre Company. I started the company to celebrate stories, songs, performers and puppets from the African-Caribbean diaspora.
You are part of the brand new show, The Instrumentals, created for young children. Tell us about your involvement with the show and what the show is about?
The Instrumentals is an idea of mine that has been brewing for a while. It is about a little girl called Belle who is at the wake of her Grandpa. Feeling sad and confused, she slips down into the basement to hide from everyone - and there she meets all of her grandpas old Instruments. They teach her all about his life and help her honour his memory.
I am the writer and director of the show, but it was created alongside an amazing team and there’s a part of all of us in The Instrumentals. Scenes were developed further and devised in the room with the performers, Elliot Liburd and Maya Manuel. The original music was created with Féz and Cal-I Jonel - we all jammed together and created some great sounds. The amazing puppets and set are designed by Oliver Hymans and the lighting by Joshie Harriette - it’s been a great team to collaborate with!
The show is inspired by the African-Caribbean diaspora. What elements from the diaspora are included in the show to represent the culture?
The music, the voices and accents, as well as the team who have been involved. The way in which we celebrate the life of those who have passed over in the Black community. It’s also in the detail of the set. It has been considered the whole way through.
Is an exploration of the culture something you fold into all the shows you write?
Its a huge part of why Blouse and Skirt! exists. To celebrate and shine a light on black joy.
As a writer and director, do you have to adapt your craft and way of storytelling for younger audiences or have you always been more geared towards creative storytelling for children?
This is the first show I have created for children as a theatre maker. As an actress I have performed in many kids shows, and I’ve picked up a lot along the way. We consider the age of the audience in much more detail in this rehearsal process. How long it would take a child to comprehend certain information, for example. Repetition and pace are all thought about in detail too.
Storytelling is such a great way to introduce children to creativity, but you also include other elements like puppetry and music in the show as well. Do you find children respond more to this kind of elevated storytelling and why do you think that is?
Children want to have fun, and ultimately, The Instrumentals is a fun show. I feel it’s a tried and tested method - great characters, colours, sounds and songs all lend themselves to a great experience that children will enjoy and support learning.
What can audiences expect from The Instrumentals, what’s one thing you want them to take away from the show?
Audiences can expect a show with real heart, wonderful characters and excellent, original music that will have them dancing in the aisles. People will forget what you say, and forget what you do - but they never forget how you make them feel… and I think our audiences will leave feeling really good!
Where can people find out more and buy tickets?
People can follow us on social media (links below) and they can buy tickets direct from the Little Angel website.
The Instrumentals will be touring until June to a number of venues after the run at Little Angel, including The Mercury in Colchester. Check out our website for more details. Don’t hesitate to grab a ticket!
Where can people find you online?