Programme Outline

The programme begins in the classroom where the teacher/actors introduce themselves out of role and explain to the children that they will be taking part in a story that is told in many languages.  They are invited to use the different languages that they know in the telling and playing out of this story.

Sometime later the children go to the hall where they find a piece of scruffy wasteland.  Mamtor arrives, shortly followed by Strifnos.  They have both been on the road for a long time, are carrying all their worldly belongings and need to find a place to camp for the night.  They speak in a language that is unfamiliar and strange.  The children watch as they get to know one another and settle down for the night.

As they fall sleep, a strange sound begins to come from a rock.  Strifnos and Mamtor are scared and start to pack up and run away.  The noise stops and they become less fearful and begin to approach.  Upon closer inspection it becomes clear that this is not a rock after all and as they pull at the grey exterior a wonderful, brightly coloured, jewelled box is revealed.  As they touch and explore it, a voice from within is activated.  It speaks in many different languages saying phrases to begin a story.  Mamtor and Strifnos explore further and find that the box has many different doors and openings.  They begin to open them and find that the box is full of hats. As they put them on, the magic of the box takes hold and they are transformed into different characters from the story of Prince Rohan and Princess Maya.  They play for a while transforming in and out of character.

Realising the power of the box, the twosome decide to take the plunge fully into the story.  They touch the box and ‘trip’ the first section of the tale – a voyage aboard a ship to an island. They take two hats out of the box and transform into a Prince and Jay, the ship’s first mate. They are catapulted into the story and involve the children as sailors in a variety of jobs at sea. Instructions are given in many languages to reflect the international make up of the crew. Eventually they approach the island – a place that is full of both danger and great reward. To prepare for the perils ahead the sailors are taught some fighting moves.

The Prince sets off with a small group of sailors to explore the island.  It is not long before they come to a cave full of gold, but its guarded by a monster.  They hide and watch as she utters words in a language unknown to them to open the great cave doors and reveal the treasures within.  She sees them and attacks and they have to fight for their lives before finally killing her. The Prince gains access to the cave by learning the magic phrase from the children who have been watching and fills his sailors’ bags with jewels and riches to take back to the ship.

The Prince and Jay remove their hats transforming back to Strifnos and Mamtor who revel in the story they have just played out.  They are eager to continue and return to the box to trip the next section of narrative – this tells of a witch who watches in her crystal ball as the Prince continues his journey on the island.  She sees the bag of gold he carries and wants it for herself, and so decides to cast a spell in order to lure him to her … however this is a spell that does not work when spoken in English as it has been collected from all over the world and needs to be recited in different languages.  She gets out her spell book which contains ingredients such as a smelly sock, bogies, a fly, an eyeball and pants and asks the children to supply the words multi-lingually.

The spell works and the Prince is drawn to the witch’s house where his gold is stolen and he is locked in a cage with a golden key.

The magic box speaks, again in many languages, saying the first part of its story is over and it is now time to rest.  The children go out for their break.

BREAK (if needed)

When the children return, Strifnos and Mamtor are eager to continue with the story.  They playfully revisit everything that has happened so far and return to the box to trip the next section of storytelling.  The box tells of a Princess ensnared in a castle by a giant.  Strifnos and Mamtor transform into the Princess and the giant and the children are involved in helping the princess carry out her tasks. The Princess speaks a mix of Arabic and English.  Once the Princess  has finished her jobs, she is sent to her room where she watches as the giant takes a magic pot from a box and begins wishing for things he wants.  He leaves and the princess creeps out to wish upon the pot herself.  However the box is locked tight and will not open.  She asks the children who have witnessed the giant whispering sweet words in many languages to open the box and with their help she does the same.  The box opens and she wishes for food and drink, however before she is about to make her third wish, the giant returns and she hides amongst the children, still clutching the pot.  The giant demands to know from the children where she is hiding.  He asks ‘Where is she?’ in many languages.  Just as he is about to discover her, the princess wishes a third time to turn the giant into an animal, she makes further wishes with the children’s help transforming him into a different creature.  Finally she uses the pot’s magic to win her freedom.

The buffoons briefly re-emerge before the story continues with the Princess following the sound of beautiful singing. She follows it until she comes to the Prince still caged by the witch.  He explains his predicament and indicates that the witch lies sleeping nearby with the golden key in her clutches.  It is at this point that the buffoons pop out of the story as they realise that there are not enough of them to play out the next section of storytelling – they are one person short.  They call upon a child to become the Princess to steal the key from the sleeping witch as the Prince is locked in a cage.

Once the key is safely retrieved, the Prince is freed and the witch shoved into the cage to be held captive forever. The box then tells that the story is over and the Prince and Princess lived happily ever after, returning home on the ship.

They return to the box eager for another story, but instead the box tells them that it is empty and must be filled again with stories and words.  Simultaneously the magic is heard to ebb out of it.  The buffoons are momentarily deflated but then realise that they are now capable of doing this as a result of having participated in the story.  They begin to whisper, speak and shout story words, characters and phrases from the story they have just participated in, into the box.  They do this in many languages and before long move away from the tale of the Prince and Princess to imagine new story possibilities.

They then ask the children to add ones of their own and as these are put back into the box, it begins to pulse with life and magic once more.  When it is fully recharged, the box thanks the buffoons and children in many different languages.  It also offers up a map, which shows the buffoons pathways to exciting places on their future journey.  They both go to take the map for themselves then realise that the road ahead is better shared and they begin to pack up their belongings to leave together.  Their time at the wasteland has not only allowed them to become multi-lingual through participating in the magic of the story box, but also to find companionship.

And the box?

Well that’s another story…


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Many children in Birmingham schools speak English as an Additional Language and yet English is the sole medium of communication in many classrooms across the city. Research shows that this sends out some very strong negative messages about the place of children’s home languages (and by association their cultural identity) within mainstream education.

Mosaic celebrates and ‘normalises’ the linguistic diversity of many of its audiences by interweaving different languages – some familiar, some new – into the very fabric of its narrative. The programme draws on different cultural stories, as well as multilingual forms of theatre, to involve children in a world of Heroes and Heroines, Princes and Princesses, magic and ritual, adversity and rewards, quests and journeys. This new and exciting programme features familiar archetypal characters and universally recognisable story elements from tales from around the globe, all brought together to create a different kind of story… one where the children fill the gaps.

Language support

As Mosaic uses many languages in performance and offers opportunities for children to use languages other than English in their participation (in instances where they speak them) it would be a great help if staff who are speakers of more than one language could model and support children in using their full linguistic resources. This programme is also suitable for classes where English is the dominant or sole language.


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Devised and performed by Simon Turner and Cynthia Lebbos

Language audio recorded and edited by Gavin Medza

Original development team:

Directed by: Deborah Hull
devised by: Juliet Fry and Vikash Patel

Designed by: Angela Connors
Consultant artist: Michael Crouch

Resources created by: Juliet Fry, Vikash Patel, Deborah Hull

Thanks to:
Percy Shurmer Primary School year 2 classes, their teachers and teaching assistants, Adrian Blackledge and Maggie Kubanyiova – University of Birmingham and Sian Ball.

Also a big thank you to the following people for recording audio for use in the programme:

Athina Jani. Milorad Žakula, Sarah-Jane Watkinson, Bhavik Parmar, Nadi Kemp-Sayfi and Zbigniew Medza.


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Aim & Outcomes


Mosaic aims to engage children in a rich theatrical experience of multi-lingual storytelling.


  • In the story of Mosaic the children will have interpreted, role-played and contributed their own ideas
  • The children will have made full use of their linguistic resources in both English and home languages
  • Teachers will have had a dynamic theatrical and linguistic stimulus to inspire teaching in the classroom, especially in areas of literacy and multilingualism

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