Jane Crawshaw graduated from BA (Hons) Acting in 2010, she tells us about her latest production Penguinpig.

“Penguinpig is based on a best-selling children’s book written by Lincolnshire based Stuart Spendlow and illustrated by Amy Bradley. It’s predominantly about e-safety aimed at 4-8 year olds. It’s about a little girl called Phoebe who goes on her parents iPad and reads about a creature called a Penguinpig, which can be found at the zoo.  She asks her parents to take her there but her parents are too busy, so she sneaks out by herself to find the Penguinpig which is obviously a very bad idea.

She goes to the zoo and she finds not a Penguinpig but a big scary bear. So the message is that you have to be very careful about what you read on the internet. It is predominantly a narrative story, a bit like Little Red Riding Hood and the aim is to tour it to theatres and schools next year.

This is the research and development stage of the project.  For the last few years I’ve mainly been working in puppetry. I really wanted to do this project because I went to school with the author. We’re both from the area and I really wanted to come back and make new work for Lincolnshire, because there is very low arts engagement here. There’s just not as much going on here because it’s so rural, so I wanted to come back and work with stories from the county using the language of the area in the script also.  I pitched the idea to Little Angels in London, who I also work with. We did a scratch performance there back in October. Then we got some Arts Council funding and part of that was to develop the work in Lincolnshire.  I wanted to get involved with the Walls Words Festival, which is based here. They have a significant children’s element to the festival so I felt it was key for this production to be part of it in some way.  I had wanted to tour but, because of timings, this will now be next spring. This does mean we have extra research and development sessions. When I pitched it to Walls Words they were really keen because of the theme and because it was from the region. They’ve been really supportive on this.

Since graduating, family support has been huge. Mum and Dad were here today distributing programmes, helping with audience feedback, and they put up the cast overnight. Their support is really important.

In London I have a really great network of theatre practitioners. The guys I went to AUB with and I are really close so we help each other out whenever we can and, of course, Little Angels have been amazing.

I’m involved in Arts Emergency because it can be hard to get into the arts.  Sometimes it feels like that’s something other people do, so I want to support young people and show them that they can have a career in the arts too.  When I was young I had a really great drama teacher, Cara Ashcroft and, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have gone in to theatre. So I want to give that opportunity back.

My mentee has just turned 18. She really wants to go to drama school, but it’s very difficult to do straight out of college and she’s very under-confident. I wanted to dissuade her from applying this year.  She started volunteering at a zombie show and they’re now paying her to be part of the production, so she’s got her first paid acting job.  I’m so proud of her, her confidence has grown tremendously. She’s gone from being too shy to talk to strangers, to getting a job as a zombie interacting with the public!

When I started in theatre I decided I wanted to make a difference. When I was young, I was taken to shows that were real highly political and these really affected my views.  I wanted to make work that also made a difference and, although not every show is about this, even if you’re doing a light-hearted comedy it still is making a difference. That’s two hours when somebody can be distracted from their everyday problems.

I’m continuing with the shows I’m doing with Little Angels until March and then pretty much straight away we’ll be touring Penguinpig, which means I don’t get a break, but hey that’s life! We’ve just got to work on getting funding and bookings, that’s the next step with this. Tonight I am teaching on my boyfriends show! I have a lot of hats, maybe too many.”

What is your One Piece of Advice?

“Perseverance.  It’s a long game but it will happen.”