ED2013 Children's Shows ED2013 Interviews ED2013 Week1 Edition

Cerrie Burnell: Creating magic

By | Published on Tuesday 6 August 2013

Cerrie Burnell

Cbeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell is surely well known to toddlers, younger children, and their parents all over the UK. So I’m willing to bet that when locals and Fringe-goers alike find out that she’s doing a Fringe show this year, they’ll be thrilled.
ThreeWeeks’ youngest reviewer (aged 6) is certainly planning to take it in, and on her insistence, we spoke to Cerrie ahead of the Edinburgh run.

CM: Let’s start with the basics, what is ‘The Magical Playroom’ all about?
CB: ‘The Magical Playroom’ is the story of Libby, a spirited little girl with a vast imagination, who dreams of becoming a ballerina like her mum. But when Libby is told that, to achieve her dream, she must learn to use a prosthetic arm, she rebels and hides in her favourite playroom, where the toys have magically come to life…

CM: I hear the story is inspired by your own childhood a little. How close is Libby to yourself as a child?
CB: Although Libby shares my disability and the battle I had not to wear a prosthetic arm, beyond that we’re quite different. She is much wilder and more defiant than I was, and her character is much closer to that of my daughter.

CM: This kind of live performance must feel quite different from working as a Cbeebies presenter. Which do you prefer?
CB: I was an actor for seven years before becoming a presenter, so I’m very much used to both. Stage and screen are very different, but I enjoy them both and feel grateful to be working in either!

CM: What’s it like working on Cbeebies, what have you learned from the experience?
CB: Working for CBeebies is like being part of an amazing ultra creative team. Everyone has a role to play, from the runners who tirelessly open the birthday cards to the floor managers who make sure our set looks lovely, and the directors who also write the content, it’s a group effort. So really I’ve learnt that to make something artistic and authentic, you need a great team.

CM: When you appeared on ‘Celebrity Mastermind’, your specialist subject was Brazilian theatre director Augusto Boal. Why did you choose him – is he an inspiration?
CB: I did an internship in Brazil with CTO Rio, Augusto Boal’s theatre company, hence the reason I chose him for my specialist subject when I appeared on that show. I think the work he’s done and the way he used forum theatre as tool for fighting oppression is immensely inspiring, and he’s definitely one of my heroes.

CM: As well as everything else, you have a children’s book coming out soon. What made you decide to write it, and what is it about?
CB: My picture book is called ‘Snowflakes’. I love writing, so it was an obvious choice for me to write a children’s book. It’s about a little girl called Mia who goes to live with her Grandmother, and feels very lost, until the snow begins to fall and she sees that every snowflake is different and every snowflake is perfect, and she realises she’s perfect too.

CM: Why have you focused on children’s media? Was it a conscious decision or did it happen by accident? Do you see yourself staying in this area professionally?
CB: It’s not been a deliberate choice to focus on children’s media; having said that, I think the children’s genre harbours some of our most exciting literature and characters, and I intend to continue to write children’s fiction and plays.

CM: Will you see other shows while you are at the Festival? Anything on your must-see list?
CB: ‘The Only Way is Downton’, which is at Pleasance Courtyard like my show, so I won’t have to walk far! It’s a one-man show by Luke Kempner who does something like 30 different impressions in the space of 60 minutes… I’ve got to go just to see how he does it!

‘The Magical Playroom with Cbeebies’ Cerrie Burnell’ was performed at Pleasance Courtyard at Edinburgh Festival 2013.

LINKS: www.magicalplayroom.com | twitter.com/cerrieburnell