Growing old gracefully isn’t easy, as Steve Pratt discovers after a chat with tutti fruiti stars Erika Poole and Josie Cerise

ERIKA Poole and Josie Cerise are getting used to working together. Having appeared together in Cartoonito TV’s Ha! Ha! Hairies for preage children, they were reunited – sort of – in Ceebies series Grandpa In My Pocket. They both appear in the series, but separate episodes.

Now they are together again in Monday’s Child appearing in the tutti frutti company’s latest show for children aged three-plus, and their families, which comes to York Theatre Royal’s Studio next week.

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Brendan Murray’s play is “a simple poetic story of the unique bond between a grandmother and a little girl” told through a magical mix of music, movement and design.

Ha! Ha! Hairies was made back in 2011, with Cerise as Minnie Ha Ha and Poole as Nanna Ha Ha. Both were relatively new to TV – it marked Cerise’s small screen debut and Poole had only done two tiny bits of telly before.

“Because we were employed for our physical theatre skills we were all novices to TV really. They wanted big performances. They didn’t want TV actors,” says Poole.

“We filmed 52 episodes in eight weeks so that was an episode and a quarter a day we had to fit to the schedule.

So we’ve gone through all that together. Anything else is a walk in the park really,” adds Cerise.

She played Nanna Ha Ha’s granddaughter, although the relationship in Monday’s Child is more open to interpretation.

“The dynamic is very similar to that of a grandmother and a granddaughter, but they could be friends,” explains Poole. “It’s a piece about memory and the importance of play, and allowing things to be discovered. It’s like the older character is remembering her childhood and the child is helping her.”

It helps having worked together before. “At the start of rehearsals you quite often have to work out your relationship to each other,” says Cerise.

“I was delighted to hear I was going to be working with Erika again because I knew we got on really well and could work together. That makes it a lot easier.

Going into rehearsals I was relaxed and knew we were going to have fun.”

Both join tutti frutti having worked a lot in projects for younger audiences. “The heart of the show is aimed at children. The essence of the show is, I think, for families.

We have an older woman in the show that will resonate.

If a grandparent wanted to bring a child along it would be a lovely journey for both,” says Cerise.

“With the plot being about memory loss, older members of the audience might know somebody – even the children themselves might know somebody – who gets forgetful as they get older. It’s very touching at times.”

There are serious themes. “We talk a lot about what’s the right pitch, what’s the right place to go to when you see a character being lost and anxious or feeling confused.

It’s all right for children, even young children, to experience that and to observe that.”

They don’t think about the difference in doing shows for younger people on stage and on TV, although Cerise likes the immediate audience response from a live show. “With TV you have the editing and somebody else controlling the story a lot more, whereas we go on a real journey with the audience in the theatre,” she says. “You know very quickly if children aren’t with you because they start talking.”

For Poole, doing work for youngsters became a practical issue. “I could go to work while my daughter was at school and come home from work when my daughter came home from school so I could still do my parenting,” she says.

“As she got older I’ve done other things, gone on tour and not worked specifically with children in mind but I really enjoy performing for children. They are very responsive, very engaged or if they’re not you know and I admire that honesty.”

Cerise thinks working with children is where her natural abilities as a performer are. “I love dancing, singing and performing large characters. Because I trained as a dancer, physical theatre is something I connect with.“I get so much joy for seeing little ones really believe what you’re saying and taking them off to this place. That’s very exciting, especially with such beautifully pitched shows as this when you have a lovely story to tell. In the end you have a sense of achievement because you’ve made a real difference. For a lot of children it might be the first time they’ve come to theatre. It’s very important they do that and keep coming.”

THEY’RE both used to getting all kinds of reaction from young audiences. Quite often they say what they see and shout out. Poole once had a little one come on stage at the end and give her a flower.

She enjoys the “heckling” because they’re not trying to be difficult, just saying what’s in their mind. “I remember when we were doing Goldilocks, the girl playing Goldilocks was a gymnast and she leapt through the window, bounced on the bed, jumped up and down. Then Daddy Bear and I came home to see our place wrecked and I had to say ‘who has done this?’.

“This little child stood up and said ‘naughty’. Then the child next to her did it and the next like a Mexican wave round the audience. It was a very honest reaction.

And I said: ‘Yes whoever it was, was very naughty’. So Goldilocks got the big thumbs down for her behaviour.”

􀁧 Monday’s Child: York Theatre Royal Studio, April 22 (1.30pm), then April 23-26 (11am and 1.30pm) and June 10 (11am and 1.30pm). Box Office: 01904-623568 and yorktheatreroyal.co.uk