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Profile On: Virginia Radcliffe

Artistic Director of children's theatre company, Licketyspit

Virginia Radcliffe (middle) in Molly Whupie, 2006; photo courtesy Licketyspit

Meet Virginia Radcliffe, artistic director of Licketyspit.  Her passion is the creation of meaningful and engaging theatre for children aged three to twelve.

Virginia describes her upbringing as 'as a family full of stories, rhymes, songs and visits to the theatre'.  After taking a degree in London in Drama and English, Virginia became an actor, involved in all sorts of projects from small-scale touring and theatre in education to a children's TV series and Shakespeare in schools.

She co-founded award winning Plain Clothes productions, touring provocative new plays including James Stock’s Blue Night in the Heart of The West, which showed at the Traverse and the Tron.

After having two children, Ruby and Iona, Virginia entered a new phase in her career.  'As an actor you have little control over what you do and you have to cope with an erratic income. In a funny way this allowed me to spend time at home with my girls when they were little than I might have felt I could with a regular job. I went into their nurseries to do Drama because I knew what fun it was and I wanted them to experience it.'  This inspired Virginia to co-write a children's show, Birdman & Mrs Moon, an interactive promenade show for three to eight year olds which had great success in London. 

In 2000, Virginia and her partner returned to Scotland, where she became the Wee Stories Early Years Project Director.  She says of Wee Stories, 'They wanted someone with exactly my experience – of acting, of managing and of early years children. I was offered a three-year contract for the first time in my life. It was serendipity'.  The most important discoveries that Virginia made through these early workshops with children were that early years children love language, and they don't mind not understanding every word.

'My best instinct was based on my early experiences in Ruby's nursery - that I shouldn't assume I know the audience.  So we went into a nursery to find out how to do it and we kept going in.  This has formed the basis of everything I've done since.  Children enjoy navigating their way through a story, they like the sounds and rhythms of words as much as the meanings. I found that they could cope with far more complex and interesting work than I had imagined and that they had a wonderful willingness to engage imaginatively with theatre.'

Virginia then took this experience and put it into practice, touring four original shows twice a year for three years - Hare & Tortoise, Molly Whuppie, Wee Witches & Quangle Wangle plus a site-specific piece at the Museum of Scotland called A Piece of Cake.  Virginia wrote the shows and co-wrote the music with Tim Brinkhurst, with design by Catherine Lindow. Virginia also performed in all these shows, together with Deborah Arnott, Viv Graham and Johnny Austin. When the project came to a close in December 2003 a a substantial Scottish audience had been built up who easily re-identified the group as Licketyspit. 

Read our feature on Licketyspit and their current show, Green Whale. Green Whale 2006; Photo: Patrick Redmond, courtesy Licketyspit

Related links
* Focus on Licketyspit
* Licketyspit
* Wee Stories
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