Monday, October 29, 2007

Who ya callin’ a Muppet?

Update - April 2007 - it's made it onto our screens.

Back in 31 July I posted ...

Cookie! Northern Ireland’s very own Sesame Street

After years of waiting - well Slugger O'Toole mentioned it in January 2006 - twenty 15-minute episodes of the new Northern Ireland version of Sesame Street will be produced and broadcast on BBC NI starting in February 2008.

Sesame Tree Northern Ireland publicity shot - cropped from BBC News website version

Following local auditions, five people have been chosen to take on the role as puppeteers and give Norn Iron voices to the puppets who’ll be gathering around the Sesame Tree - Northern Ireland’s very own version of Sesame Street. Executive producer Colin Williams commented to the Belfast Telegraph:

“We saw a lot of really good people over the past few weeks, but the chosen cast of six really stood out for their enthusiasm and ability to move, act and sing all at once ...

Most of the cast are local performers, with performing arts background, however one of the cast, Helen Sloan has no previous acting experience but the producers were impressed with her enthusiasm and improvisation skills.”

Having seen Avenue Q (a puppet musical that’s still running in London - go and see it if you’re over), puppeteers really make or break a show.

Marty Robinson - Sesame Street puppeteer - Sesame Tree - The Jim Henson Company

The home five will work alongside Marty Robinson who according to the Muppet Wiki joined The Jim Henson Company back in 1980 as the man behind Aloysius Snuffleupagus, Telly Monster, Slimey the Worm, and has helped to hire and train puppeteers in Sesame offshoots in Mexico, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Russia and Bangladesh. So he’s no stranger to conflict!

It’s proving great fodder for local newspapers who are responding to the drip, drip of news from production company Sixteen South by printing fortnightly stories. It’s sure to become cult viewing - certainly amongst the student population who forty years ago tuned into The Magic Roundabout at 5.40pm each evening before the early evening news. Word has even spread to the Indian TV portal

So who will we see?

Potto is the big purple character, “gentle, bookish and a brilliant inventor”. Assisted by Hilda (a younger and more energetic hare with pink guddies gutties), the pair will answer the questions posed by Northern Ireland children to the Sesame Tree each week.

The supporting cast includes the Bookworms (two helpful and friendly worm-Muppets who live among Potto's books), Claribelle (“a bright, loveable and eccentric auntie character who occasionally visits the tree”) and the three Weatherberries (Muppet fruit - that hang together in a bunch inside the Sesame Tree).

And if that’s not enough, every now and again Potto will get in touch with his family back in the US, introducing some of the well known global characters like Bert and Ernie, Elmo and Cookie Monster.

If you’re wanting to get into the mood, check out the weekly US Sesame Street podcast (RSS or iTunes).

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