My Smile Has Fallen Down began life a good few years ago. I’d worked with actor/musician/writer Dan Leith on A Boy & His Box along with video artist Conan McIvor and illustrator Patrick Sanders and it had been a very special experience.
Patrick and Dan and I had talked on and off for a good while after about wanting to make something for the very young that played in the difficult but crucial area of finding your way through sadness and darkness.
But then, unbearably sadly, Patrick died by suicide in January 2017. He is still incredibly missed. On a side note, you can still experience his unique genius in his gorgeous book, Your Little Tiny Welcome To The Great Big Whole Wide World that he wrote as a commission for Babyday.
Some time later, I heard a song that Dan had written paying tribute to his father, who every night would tell Dan and his sister bedtime stories about some very particular animals who lived in old Bill Beech Tree which was in the copse of trees outside their house and the adventures or these very particular animals, including Mr Hoppity, a rabbit of wonder and adventure and a bird called Gagglegoose. And I loved it.
I also began working a lot with Touched Theatre in Brighton, being part of the creative team for Twinkle Twinkle and Little Monster, both of which are for early years audiences. They’ve also worked a lot with Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services in England and so were a perfect partner to join the ongoing conversation between Dan & I.
In 2018, Roscommon Arts Centre offered me a mini-commission to spend a few days playing with an idea and the guys from Touched were over this side of the water touring Twinkle Twinkle. So they, Dan & I gathered in Roscommon and started playing with the ideas for My Smile Has Fallen Down.
Fast forward to now and the show is part of my Network For Extraordinary Audiences 2021 season and we’re joined by designer Niall Rea who created many of the shows I made in Belfast.
Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been working virtually to develop the script of the story of Dan stuck in his bed with his fears and his sadness and the soft toy creatures that go on the journey with him to find his way out the other side to a place of hope. The cast have been gathering in Dan’s home in Belfast – Mr & Mrs Fox who have relationship issues, Silent (a doll with no mouth), two bears (one who can’t stop laughing and the other who can’t stop crying), Gagglegoose (a very anxious and very fluffy bird) and Jeremy (a mouse with bad thoughts and evil intent). Still to join are Mr Hoppity (a rabbit who brings hope and optimism) who is currently winging his way to Belfast from a warehouse in France and Angry the Skunk who is still to be cast.
My Smile Has Fallen Down will tour schools and venues in October/November 2021.
It is dedicated to Patrick and to Dan’s dad, Julian.