Prefab Hall, 14 Jessie Street (access also from Vivian St), Wellington

25/03/2017 - 25/03/2017

Capital E National Arts Festival

Production Details

Master storyteller spins vibrant children’s show

Renowned UK spoken word artist Polarbear puts young audiences at the centre of storytelling with the New Zealand premiere of Mouth Open, Story Jump Out at Capital E’s National Arts Festival. 

“Raconteur extraordinaire” (Irish Times) Polarbear is a master maker-upper whose vibrant shows encourage audiences to become part of the tale. Mouth Open, Story Jump Out is brimming with stories, jokes and adventures that Polarbear spins while inviting audiences to contribute and shape the show through writing, drawing and responding to stories and prompts. It’s a production that puts children at the heart of storytelling and shows them their own creativity reflected back at them. 

This Battersea Arts Centre performance tells the story of how one small decision can set off a massive chain reaction and change a life forever, after a father disappears and a boy discovers his own talent for telling tales. Complete with international assassins, secret coats, dog-eating boa constrictors and much more, Polarbear gives audiences the opportunity to use their imaginations to fill gaps in the story, create characters and work as a group to tell their own tales. 

Mouth Open, Story Jump Out is Polarbear’s fourth theatre show and his first for young people. It was first performed in Battersea Arts Centre, London in 2012, and has since toured extensively around the UK and to Melbourne. Battersea Arts Centre is  renowned for their unique approach to producing work for young people by working with world-class artists.  

Festival producer Melanie Hamilton says “Mouth Open, Story Jump Out is an example of a vision for putting children at the centre of arts experiences that Battersea Arts Centre shares with Capital E. We both partner with brilliant theatre, music and dance artists to produce exceptional quality works for children, and this show will show young audiences the power of words and inspire them to share their own stories too.”

Mouth Open, Story Jump Out
Public performance
Prefab Hall
Saturday 25 March

For more information or to book tickets to Mouth Open, Story Jump Out, visit  

Theatre , Spoken word , Family , Children’s ,

Cleverly created

Review by John Smythe 26th Mar 2017

He can certainly talk, Steven Camden – from Birmingham, I’m guessing from his accent. As we gather in the Prefab Hall he’s sitting in front of a large brown paper wall adorned with pictures of dogs, Bruce Lee, the odd other person; drawings (by previous audiences, we discover at the end) and people’s names: Donna, Dominic, Danny Jones … and ‘Mr Liar’. The meaning of each component will be revealed. Meanwhile he chats amiably to his growing audience, establishing a relaxed, informal mood.  

He introduces himself as ‘Polarbear’ (again we find out why at the end), asks us what the best job in the world is, scribbles the answers on the brown paper floor … This seems to confirm my initial assumption, based on the Mouth Open, Story Jump Out title, that the story he will go on to tell will be totally improvised, based on these ‘ask fors’. But no: although he involves the audience in various ways, it is his own story of when he was 10 that he treats us to.

Quite early on he quotes his Dad’s admonition: “A lie is selfish. A story is a gift.” The rest of the hour can be seen as his unpacking of that abiding truth. The role his absentee father plays in the unfolding story is significant, adding an important level of poignancy to a tale of survival in the primary ‘blackboard jungle’. The age for this show is billed as 8+, by the way.

His sister is Donna, his best friend is Dominic Clark and his focus of fear is Danny Jones.  There’s a set-up involving a forthcoming ‘Talent Show’. But it is when his teacher, the softly spoken Mr Bukowski, asks him to deliver his book report, he hasn’t prepared it and he spins a credible sounding explanation that the substantive story kicks in; the one that explores the difference between a lie that’s selfish and a story that’s a gift.  

The adult way of saying it is that when we totally believe a story then discover it is untrue, we feel betrayed, but when we know it is made up and willingly suspend our disbelief, we enjoy sharing in the ‘make-believe’.

While the show is sort of illustrated, ‘Polarbear’ basically talks nonstop. It could be described as the ‘chapter-book’ equivalent of children’s theatre (in comparison to ‘picture book’ theatre for younger children) and it’s fascinating to see how the target audience is drawn into the drama of it. The chat session at the end proves they’ve absorbed the detail and tuned into the underlying themes. My 9 year-old great nephew “absolutely loves it!”

As a bonus, he – Steve; he’s told us that’s his other name by now – offers those who want it his booklet of storytelling tips. Little do any of the young ones realise they have just been treated to a cleverly created ‘do as I do and as I say’ lesson from a master storyteller. 


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