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WAR torn; A much-loved book about three children searching for their father is being brought to stage for the first time. James Rodger reports.

THE Silver Sword is set in Poland in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War and follows the Balicki children's search for safety as Europe is divided up and displaced people return to their homelands.

Along the way, Ruth, Edek and Bronia meet 14-year-old Jan, a boy who, years before, had met their father by chance and been given the family's precious paper knife, affectionately known as the Silver Sword.

Jan's instructions were to show it to the children, should their paths cross, with the message that their father is alive and heading for Switzerland.

Based on Ian Seraillier's highly acclaimed children's novel, which was recently voted one the top 50 children's books of all time, we asked director Susie McKenna to tell us more about the production.

What is The Silver Sword about? In essence, it's a story about three Polish children who become separated from their parents during the war.

I suppose these characters show us that, even in times of extreme suffering, what triumphs is our humanity. There is always someone to help these children, whatever circumstance they find themselves in.

What inspired you to bring the story to the stage? The Silver Sword was one of my favourite books when I was a child, mostly because I was in love with monkeys and it has a wonderful monkey in it called Bistro.

There's a wonderful quote from Anthony Horowitz, who wrote Foyle's War, about the original novel. He recalls that it was The Silver Sword that gave him a social conscience at the age of 10 and it was very much the same for me.

For Jan, the are friends. natural rapport them which stark contrast distrust of Susie After reading the novel, I remember wanting to know more about the history of the time, about what happened to these children and others like them after the war.

So in one sense, there's this wonderful educational side to this show but then, on the other side, it's about coming out and enjoying 10 amazing performers tell a story in a very simplistic way with the aid of great music and hopefully a lot of laughter.

What role does music play in this production? It's a musical adaptation and, as such, we've had to approach the show in a very particular way. Music brings a sense of normality to these communities, to the craziness that is the backdrop of post-Second World War.

animals He has a with stands in to his humans McKenna Steven Edis, my writing partner and musical director, has put together an incredibly catchy score taking in influences which range from Eastern European folk right through to Gypsy Swing and American Jazz And, of course, we wanted to incorporate the Polish tradition into the play as much as possible. Whilst the novel was written by an English author, it is a Polish story.

How important are the animal characters like Jimpy the Cockerel and Bistro the Chimp to the action and how do you bring them to life? The animals play a pivotal role in the action, particularly in the case of Jan, a street child living in bombedout Warsaw. For Jan, the animals are friends. He has a natural rapport with them which stands in stark contrast to his distrust of humans.

We're using puppets on stage and we're incredibly fortunate to be working with the genius that is Scott Brooker. His creations are some of the most famous and recognisable in the UK today (the Dolmio Family, the Peperami Sausage, the ITV digital monkey the list goes on).

The puppets for this piece have been put together using a technique known as object trouve.

During the two world wars, when regular materials were difficult to obtain, artisans, including puppet makers, would make use of materials that came to hand in order to create their work.

With this in mind, the animals all have to appear to be made from materials that could be accessible to the characters in the play.

the Silver Sword is at the Old Rep | |THEATRE from October 22-24. To book visit

For Jan, the animals are friends. He has a natural rapport with them which stands in stark contrast to his distrust of humans Susie McKenna the recalls It's a as such, the way.


Jan with Jimpy the Cockerel and the Silver Sword
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Oct 8, 2015
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