Radwinter storyteller tours as Beatrix Potter to mark author’s 150th anniversary
- Credit: Archant
A professional storyteller with long dreadlocks is playing the part of Beatrix Potter in a touring show to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the world famous children’s author.
As the official narrator in The Magical World of Beatrix Potter – A 150th Anniversary Celebration, Janina Vigurs, 37, has to dress in full period costume. And this requires quite a transformation as Janina, who also works as a part-time gardener, has dreadlocks and a number of piercings. But once her hair is pulled back, piercings are removed and costume donned, Janina has been going down a storm with Peter Rabbit fans.
Janina, who lives in Radwinter, said: “Someone from Penguin, the publishers, saw me at a literary festival last year with my dreadlocks and jewellery and everything, and basically said: ‘That’s the girl we need.’ The show is heavily scripted, but sometimes we go wildly off-script – that’s where the gold is.”
The interactive show, aimed at four to seven-year-olds, tries to teach them about the woman behind the well-loved stories. Children are invited to get involved and tell Janina about their area and what they know about the Beatrix Potter stories.
They then settle down to hear ‘Beatrix Potter’ read The Tale of Peter Rabbit. In this version, however, the end of the story has been lost and the children have to invent an ending themselves.
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“They are so creative,” said Janina. “At a recent show, Peter Rabbit escaped from Mr McGregor by disappearing down a tunnel on a white cat. I adore working with children. It’s a joy. I’m doing something I love.”
Penguin was expecting audiences of around 50 for each show, but at a recent performance at the Cambridge Union there were about 200 people.
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Janina started out in professional theatre as a stage technician before retraining in countryside management and, from there, became involved in the Forest Schools project. This is where she discovered her passion for the oral tradition, sharing old folk tales with the children.
“The storytelling just grew out of that,” said Janina. “I started off with The Magic Porridge Pot, because that’s the only story I knew at the time, but I now tell loads of different folk stories and wonder tales from all over the world.”
The Beatrix Potter show is currently touring literary festivals, bookshops and town festivals across the country.