Hickory and Dickory Dock at the National Museum of Scotland
More than a year ago Wee Stories started talking to Alison Rae at the National Museum of Scotland about making a new show to be performed in the museum, for children aged 4-7 and their families. After a couple of 10am meetings in the museum café, surrounded by chimes and bongs, we thought it might be a good idea to develop a show about time and clocks. We knew that such a rich subject would send children out into the museum looking for all the amazing clocks from different eras (and, in our story, their associated magical mechanically minded mice!).
I’m not sure we knew just how rich the subject matter was. After all, Stephen Hawking is still trying to work out what time ‘is’ and we were proposing to explain it to 4 year olds. Then we remembered how interesting and complicated children’s relationship with time is at that sort of age - when they start to grapple with concepts such as past, present and future, and come out with statements like “I went to see my grandma tomorrow”. Later on they need to engage with time-keeping; that they shouldn’t be late for school, or that it’s lunchtime when the two hands on the clock point straight up. They also begin to understand about the past, the ‘olden days’ when, for example, clocks had to be wound up every day.
Reading an explanation of relative time (sometimes at school it can really drag, during the summer holidays it flashes past) in the Ladybird book Time, Calendars and Clocks (1972) we confirmed our sense that children love big concepts, and it’s adults who sometimes find them difficult.
Wee Stories’ artistic director Iain Johnstone sat down and wrote a story, inevitably beginning with Once upon a time… and entitled Hickory and Dickory Dock. Back in the ‘olden days’ of wind-up clocks, in a mittel-European village, everyone, including Fraulein Fruehauf the schoolteacher, Herr Bäcker the baker and Herr Biermann the innkeeper, depends on Herr Glockenspiel the clockmaker. By repairing and maintaining their clocks, he ensures order; the village runs like clockwork. But when his sight begins to fail, the clocks tick and tock faster and slower, and the community turns against him… well, without giving too much away, remember the magical mechanically minded mice I mentioned earlier? Perhaps they have something to do with what happens next...
With an intricate design full of surprises by Claire Halleran and original atmospheric music by David Trouton, not to mention Hansi, the grumpiest, fattest ginger cat puppet ever, the story turned into a piece of theatre. It’s been up to the Highlands and down to the Borders and, a long time after those first chats with Alison, those magical mechanically minded mice have found their way into the Museum.
Hickory and Dickory Dock will be on show in the Auditorium at the National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh from Monday 1 to Saturday 6 July 2013. For more information, visit the National Museum of Scotland website