A secret wish that snowballed

The Snow Child  at Sheffield Crucible Studio until January 7.
The Snow Child at Sheffield Crucible Studio until January 7.

Last Christmas Valentina Ceschi and Thomas Eccleshare were in The Snow Child, playing a couple who long for a child of their own and end up sculpting a daughter out of snow with magical consequences.

This year they are bringing the show they created to the Crucible Studio but Valentina won’t be performing – as she is pregnant with the partners’ first child.

It’s a piece of theatre that’s warm and open and funny

Together they run award-winning company Dancing Brick who specialise in bold, poetic, visual shows featuring mime and puppetry.

The Snow Child is based on a Russian folktale and has music composed and played live by Harry Blake.

“I hadn’t heard of The Snow Child before Purni suggested it (Purni Morell, artistic director of the Unicorn Theatre in London, co-producers with Sheffield Theatres and where it premiered last Christmas) but it resonated with us,” said Thomas Eccleshare.

“It’s about a child who is made out of snow but it’s also about the way seasons come and go.”

They dress in modern day summer shirts and winter sports gear.

“What we didn’t want was to go for the sepia look and just because we are telling a Russian folktale we don’t have to be in shawls and playing the accordion and coming on in a wagon,” continues Thomas.

The set is a white ball pool which the performers roll around and dive into and make snowballs. It also doubles as a swimming pool in summer.

“It definitely has a warm feeling of love and family and fun, all the things that work in Christmas shows. It’s a piece of theatre which is warm and open and funny but there is a real heart and emotion to it.”

The couple met while studying mime and movement at the famous Jacques Lecoq Ecole Intérnationale de Théâtre in Paris and after forming Dancing Brick in 2008 have toured nationally and internationally playing to audiences of all ages. Their most recent show, Jason and the Argonauts, was aimed at slightly older children – not the pre-school audience The Snow Child is aimed at.

“I should make it clear that despite our name we are not a dance company we are a theatre company and while there is no dialogue the show is written and carefully constructed,” points out Thomas who is also an award-winning playwright .

“Valentina also directs more traditional stuff but when we work together it tends to be much more physical and playful.”

Those physical demands on someone eight months pregnant have confined her to directoral duties on The Snow Child and her role is being played by Lucy Hopkins but she hopes to be back when the production goes to New York next Christmas.

○Build your own Snow Child puppet in a one-hour Christmas workshop for the whole family on Saturday from 12.30pm to 1.30pm or 3pm to 4pm. It costs £15 for a family of four (minimum of one adult).