Short Scruffs; Dan Thomas (l) Crystal Quinney Barella (centre) Gary the Grasshopper (r). Photo: Brian Sayle

Short Scruffs, a street performance company comprising two Edge Hill alumni, created a colourful circus performance for children as part of the 2019 Ormskirk Gingerbread festival.

Crystal Quinney Barella and Dan Thomas, who graduated from Edge Hill University in 2018, secured funding from Arts Council England to develop the show which involved a small-scale circus with just two human performers and a flashmob of local children from Ormskirk’s BASE Dance Theatre Academy. During the development of the show students and graduates were mentored by professionals in the field.

Dan Thomas, Crystal Quinney Barella and (magnified so that she is visible) Felicity the Flea.

The Jump is ‘a laugh out loud zany puppet show’ in which forest animals compete to see who can become the star acrobat of the circus. Loosely based on a Hans Christian Anderson story, the show’s two performances on Sunday 14th July beguiled a large family audience in Ormskirk town centre.

Short Scruffs worked in partnership with Walk the Plank, one of the UK’s foremost outdoor arts companies to develop the show, with support provided by the town’s Chapel Gallery and Edge Hill University.

Many more Edge Hill students and alumni were involved in the production including set designer Tom Brown (who co-founded the company), puppet designer Vic Podemska and costume designer Claire Doyle. Media graduates Nathan Edwards and Tom Dodd documented the event on film.

Short Scruff with Gloria the Goose

Children from BASE Dance Theatre Academy introduced the show with a spectacular flashmob dance piece. The young dancers portraying forest creatures were choreographed to move through the town centre, drawing the crowd’s attention towards the circus stage.

Short Scruffs’ Crystal Quinney Barella, who studied Performing Arts, is happy with the show’s first outing.

“The kids stayed engaged and the look of the show made an impact. Our costumes, puppets and set gave some vibrancy to the street and the immediate feedback from the audience was great! The show was exhausting and so rewarding. A 40 minute show isn’t that easy to sit through. The show played a part in uniting the community through the multitude of creative workshops we offered.

Crystal Quinney Barella

She added:

“Internationally renowned Walk the Plank recognised our potential as artists and provided us with the help to put our creativity on a public platform. Without the support of Arts Council funding none of this would have happened to this standard, so we are exceptionally grateful for their belief in our project.”

Dan Thomas

Performer Dan Thomas, who graduated in Drama, was similarly pleased.

‘This whole process has been amazing. The mentor to mentor scheme brought well recognised artists together like Candida Boyes, Cordi Ashwell, Ruth Jones and to have Alexis Johnson and Barnaby King by our side for the whole process gave us so many experiences. This was a long process for one brilliant day, and I don’t think we disappointed! The audience were great and the show went really well. This was the first time in front of an audience so to get this response is brilliant. Onwards to Theatr Clwyd now!’

Sue Hill from the Ormskirk Community Partnership said:

“Short Scruffs performance captivated young and old. The acting, the costumes, the puppets and the circus skills provided the best of street theatre.  It is no easy task to hold the attention of an audience that can stand up and walk away. A glance at the rapt faces was enough to confirm the performance was a success.”

Senior Lecturer in Performance Dr Barnaby King said:

“It’s very exciting and rewarding as a lecturer to see students taking their skills out into the professional field. Short Scruffs is a great example of what we do here at Edge Hill, by exposing students to leaders in the arts world and providing support and mentoring which allows them to get experience on the job. With this show under their belts I am sure Dan and Crystal will go from strength to strength and have a successful and satisfying career in the arts.”

The annual Gingerbread Festival, organised by Ormskirk Community Partnership working with West Lancashire Borough Council, celebrates the town’s heritage with a day of performances, displays and a special market.

The Jump is going to be performed on Fri 26th July at Theatr Clwyd’s Arts Festival and the company are working on plans for future outdoor adventures.