There’s been a certain amount of doom and gloom in the last couple of posts, so what we need is something to raise our spirits, and I reckon The Golden Underpants might be just the thing. Or Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants, to give it its full title, for which we have to thank the dynamic duo of Giles Andreae and the mighty Korky Paul.
If you don’t have a clue what I’m on about, let me explain. Sir S and the GU is a children’s picture book with a bounding storyline and glorious, in-your-face illustrations. It’s naughty. It has kings and queens in it, and bare bums. It has a giant who steals underpants and in triumph wears them on his head [and not just any old underpants, but golden underpants OF POWER] and it has a six year-old hero in full armour, who of course saves the day.
Great, you may be thinking. But what’s this to do with Shrewsbury?
Regretfully, there are so many things going on in Shrewsbury that My Tonight From Shrewsbury doesn’t have the time to include the half of them. That’s why, when Sir S and the GU came to town a few weeks ago in the guise of Ensemble 360, performing in the Maidment Building at Shrewsbury School, they found themselves missed out. Now, however, is their moment in the light [not that they need any light - with Golden Underpants to guide them, they generate enough of their own].
Ensemble 360 was formed upon the retirement of the world-famous Lindsey Quartet. Musicians from across the world were auditioned and a flexible, eleven-piece chamber music ensemble of five string players, five wind players and a pianist was born. Music in the Round, with whom they work in collaboration, is an education and outreach group that aims to inspire and enthuse by means of concerts and workshops, bringing high-quality professional music-making out into the community. Together with Ensemble 360, their repertoire includes The Chimpanzees of Happy Town and The Lion Who Wanted to Love, so I’m sure you get the general idea.
With this latest edition to their repertoire, Ensemble 360 packed out the Maidment Building last December, and less than two months later they were back, courtesy of Shrewsbury’s Children’s Bookfest. For the first half of the performance the packed theatre full of young children [roughly three year-olds upwards] and their parents/grandparents/aunties/uncles etc were put through their paces, learning the Underpants Songs and a series of key noises and actions that would be required to bring alive the story of King Colin’s tragic loss and Sir Scallywag’s triumphant quest.
This was testing for all concerned. Tonight from Shrewsbury, I can attest that getting the right actions together with the right noises in the right places was trickier than you’d expect. Eventually, however, the audience managed to sort itself out and the performance moved into its second phase, which was the telling of the story Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants, kicking it off in grand style with an extract from Handel’s Music For the Royal Fireworks.
‘King Colin wasn’t clever and King Colin wasn’t bold,’ the narrator began, in a voice that bristled with excitement and expectation, ‘but what made King Colin special were his underpants of GOLD.’
I’ll spare you the rest. After this lapse in time some of the details escape me. But what doesn’t escape me is the memory of Shrewsbury’s little people [along with some of the grown-up great and good of the town] with their arms above their heads doing the Golden Underpants actions and singing the Underpants Song. They all loved it. There were no actors on stage, just a handful of musicians, a screen with a few pics and a narrator with a mesmerizing voice who brought to life Giles Andreae’s galloping verse. But for one glorious and magical hour, they and King Colin [and his bare bum] ruled. Or, at least, King Colin tried to rule – but it was very difficult without his Underpants of Power. God alone knows what might have happened if Sir Scallywag hadn’t come along.
For a three year old, what a whizz around the world of live music, and what an fabulous introduction to real instruments and how they work. Little people toddled out afterwards, blinking into the daylight, their ears ringing to the sound of Rossini’s William Tell Overture. For many of them, Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants will have been their first show.
If you get a chance to attend a Music in the Round children’s performance go for it, and prepare yourselves to gasp, giggle and roar [all in the right places, of course]. For those of you interested in finding out more about Ensemble 360 and their Sir S and the GU performance, HERE’S a rather endearing YouTube clip.