It was inscribed: "To Zoom, from Uncle Roy." On the last page there was an address and a map: "The sea and how to get there..."
Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre's play is based on the Zoom books by Tim Wynne-Jones, illustrated by Eric Beddows. It's about the thrilling and sometimes mysterious adventures of Zoom the cat and his friend Maria.
The show opened at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, followed by a cross-Canada tour, including the Calgary, Vancouver and Saskatoon children’s festivals.
Zoom is a cat who loves water and dreams of the sea. One afternoon he finds a diary in the attic, inscribed, "To Zoom from Uncle Roy". On the last page is an address and a map: The Sea and How to Get There.
Zoom follows the instructions to Maria's house. When he tells Maria that he is Captain Roy's nephew, she invites him in and turns an enormous wheel. The sea comes tumbling in.
Zoom dances on the deck of his home-made raft, calling, "More waves," or "More sun," or "More fish." Then he sits and lets the tide carry him back. Maria gives him tea. At the end of the day, he thanks her and asks if he can come back.
Uncle Roy is in the High Arctic and Maria hasn’t heard from him in months. She’s off to the North Pole to search for him, and asks Zoom to come along.
Zoom has never been upstairs at Maria’s before. The way is cold, and very steep. They pass windows prickly with ice and halls carpeted with snow. Finally they come to a narrow room with a very small doorway, too small for Maria. "I’ll have to find a different way," she says. "I’ll meet you on the other side."
Zoom travels through a long tunnel into the bright Arctic sun. Birds laugh and seals clap as he skates round and round on the Arctic sea. Then, tired, he climbs to the top of a frozen hill, looks through his spy glass and sees Uncle Roy’s boat, The Catship, stuck in the ice.
In the galley, he finds a note: Uncle Roy and his crew have boarded a passing iceberg and are heading south. Zoom is sad; he’d hoped to see his uncle. Then he hears Maria calling him. Maria carries him home and he wakes up in front of her fireplace, dreaming about travelling to rescue The Catship once the ice melts. He hopes it won’t be too long.
It’s fall, and Zoom is napping in Maria’s garden when she answers an urgent phone call from Uncle Roy. Zoom wakes up and follows her muddy footprints to the library. He goes through a bookshelf and down a staircase of books. There he finds a dark river, climbs aboard a dusty old crate, and floats on the current all the way to a stone dock in Egypt.
In a room crawling with pictures of cats, Zoom meets mysterious cloth covered cat-like shapes: mummies. But one of them isn’t a cat. It’s Maria. With his pruning shears, Zoom cuts the mummy open, and together he and Maria follow a trail of Uncle Roy’s silver buttons out of the tomb onto a pier where a row boat awaits them.
Maria rows out on the wide black river to a clipper ship under a crescent moon. It’s Uncle Roy’s Catship. Zoom’s long-lost uncle welcomes them aboard. They have quite the trip ahead of them, upstream, to search for the source of the Nile. They all sail off into the gentle Egyptian night.
...I wanted to say thank you for bringing the theatre troupe which performed Zoom at Sea. As an educator and a parent it seems to me that the old art of storytelling (and along with it the art of listening and imagining) is quickly dying.
What a joy it was for me to sit with my child in front of performers who did not dazzle or shock, but who told a story so very well that my imagination -- and more importantly, my daughter's imagination -- could take flight.
Perhaps other festival goers mentioned the circus or stilt walkers as the things that they were most impressed by, rather than the production of Zoom at Sea. But I looked around...everyone in the audience was captivated by the storytelling. So thanks to you and thanks to the troupe. I'd love to see more of this kind of production next year!
I love this dear show...Thank you for your inventiveness, your lovely portrayals, and for the clear delight you have in your work.
—Marti Maraden, Director of English Theatre, NAC
Quiet and gentle and often quite abstract...The show brought together symbolic elements, like a flowing cloth to represent the sea, and specific props, such as a spectacular model of the seagoing vesse. The Catship...several of the props were inspired, like a hand-held section of bookshelf which Zoom jumps through to enter another world.
—The Saskatoon Star Phoenix
Our study guide is available here.
The National Library of Canada has a great article on their web site about how children's books are made, and the Zoom books are featured. To go to their site and read the article, click here.
Tim Wynne-Jones is the author of the Zoom books. His website is here.
Friendship, inclusion, empathy, leadership, kindness and caring.
Demonstrate an understanding of how elements of drama are used in theatre to communicate meaning.
Storytelling through puppetry and music, using storybooks as source for drama.
We need use of the performance area for three hours and fifteen minutes.
Please re-arrange any activities scheduled for that time, and have the space cleared for our arrival.
Our set will extend 25 feet across, and is 20 feet deep. We’ll help the teachers to seat their students.
The students should sit cross-legged on the floor, in order of age. This is easiest to accomplish if the students arrive in order of age, youngest to eldest. The youngest group could arrive about 5 minutes prior to the performance time.
Although children will be seated on the floor, we’ll set chairs along the sides to mark out their area; teachers can use these chairs to sit beside their classes. We also need six chairs backstage.
Please turn off all bells, fans, and air conditioners for the performance.
We need to back our van up to the door which gives the closest access to the performance area. Please arrange to have gates and doors unlocked, and to keep the parking space free for us. If there is no easy access to the performance area, we’d appreciate it if three or four people could help us to unload and load our equipment.
A floor plan of the show, in PDF format, is available for download: click here.
Click here for a PDF version of this sheet.