The sign said ‘All Knitters Welcome’ and the cast of Me, As A Penguin were sitting at a retro-chic table in the Arcola Theatre café in Dalston. To publicise the start of the play’s month long run an afternoon of penguin knitting had been organised. The stakes were high: the maker of the best penguin would win tickets to the play. Event organiser, Katherine Hughes, giggled this would be a “strict penguin competition,” but, “every penguin was welcome and a winner”. All the penguins would be donated to Tommy’s Baby Charity.
Among the balls of wool and tangle of knitting needles stood a colony of ‘here’s-one-I-made-earlier’ penguins that keen knitters had already provided. I sat with Director Chris Hill and Writer Tom Wells, as they laboured hard to twist wool into something resembling a pearl knot. The play revolves around Stitch, a young man who travels to a big city to enter the gay scene. Then, somehow, a man in a penguin suit and Stitch’s heavily pregnant sister also manage to squeeze into the scene.
Asked where he got his inspiration from Tom replied: “I had this knitting magazine from the 60s that my mum had given me, it’s amazing.” He blushes, laughs and continues:
“It just seems really funny now reading it, it’s full of these un-feminist comments like, how to make your husband happy with a cardigan. I just thought it was really sweet so…”
He is not being chauvinistic; just delighted by the historic detail of the magazine.
Nowadays we are knitting for fun and re-learning forgotten hobby craft techniques with the recession re-launching ‘handmade crafts’ into fashion. Katherine summed it up by saying:
“There’s a real vogue for make do and mend at the moment and with a lot more emphasis on handmade value … we just wanted to get together, have a bit of fun and tap into this massive knitting craze.”
Well, that explains the knitting but what about the penguins? Take your needles and wool along to the Arcola Theatre in Dalston and watch ‘Me, As A Penguin’ to find out.