A Thousand Cranes Theatre Company
From West to East from East to West,
A Thousand Cranes creates visual, vibrant, inventive theatre for young audiences inspired by stories and traditions from Japan and the UK.
A Thousand Cranes was founded by performer Kumiko Mendl and director and writer Vicky Ireland in 2006 to creatively diversify UK Children’s touring theatre, bringing the extraordinary and fascinating stories, traditions, art forms and artists of Japan to young audiences.
Our first show, “Tales from Old Japan”, was developed for “Asobi!” a Japanese family event at artsdepot. Hugely successful, we continue to perform it in repertoire.
We have since created 6 productions each having 2 or 3 tours, together with workshops performing over 280 shows across 96 different venues in the UK and at International Festivals across the world to over 20,000 children and their families.
In October 2009 we were made an Artistic Associate of artsdepot.
Covid-19 friendly shows
Available for booking!
A Thousand Cranes presents a covid-19 friendly Kamishibai shows: The Great Race! and Milky Way. Kamishibai Theatre is a traditional way of telling stories from Japan and both stories are presented by our associate artist, Haruka Kuroda.
This show involves a solo performer who will do their own stage with a simple get-in and get-out. The performance can take place inside or outside in a space which has good acoustics and allows for social distancing. Masks and gloves will be used before and after performances.
Tales from Old Japan
Covid-19 friendly show
“Mountains are just like people – they have secrets, mysteries and stories to tell”
Come and hear enchanting, bewitching and hair-raising stories of magnificent Mount Iwate who blew hot and cold, the humble woodcutter and his beautiful but strange bride and the snorting, burping Ogre of Rashomon Gate.
These three delightful traditional Japanese tales are brought to life through inventive storytelling, puppetry and music.
The Great Race!
The tour of The Great Race! has been postponed until 2022. For information about our activities for 2021, please read our blog here.
The Paper Washi Wish
Inspired by Kamishibai (traditional and much-loved Japanese paper theatre) and Washi (Japanese paper) this vibrant, physical theatre piece blends words, pictures, imagination and heaps of paper to create a birthday story for Rabbit in the Moon, followed by a hands-on paper making experience.
The two performers arrive with a small “theatre” on the back of their bicycle which contains a story, illustrated by drawings and quite a few surprises.
A charming theatrical experience for younger audiences, 3yrs+.
Little Sunshine Little Rainfall
Little Sunshine and Little Rainfall invite you to their magic garden.
But trouble is afoot for the gardeners when naughty Storm Fox comes to visit.
All the creatures in the garden must think quickly to save their homes an families. Perhaps wise old Turtle has the answer?
Blending Japanese folklore with traditional music and dance, and inspired by haiku and origami, this exciting and beautiful show is brought to you by the same creative team as the highly successful, Paper Washi Wish.
Me and My Cat?
Based on the book by award winning Japanese children’s author and illustrator, Satoshi Kitamura.
Calling all Junior Detectives!
One morning the phone rings at the Amazing Kitamura Detective Agency.
Detective K answers. It is a boy called Nicholas, but on the screen, we see a picture of a cat. Detective K is confused. Nicholas is confused. He needs help, fast!
Come and join Detective K as she sets off on an exciting and hilarious adventure, full of manga clues and strange events. But will she solve the mystery and return Nicholas to his own body in time?
The Little Mochi Man
Join little Mochi Man on his adventures as he travels from the snowy mountains of Hokkaido, to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Inspired by the traditions of Shogatsu (Japanese New Year celebrations) and with ‘origami’ puppets, animation and especially composed music, this is the perfect introduction to Japan for young children.
Please get in touch if you are having a “Japanese Day” at your school or exploring different cultures and we will happily tailor a workshop to suit your needs.
Here are some workshops we currently offer!
Origami Story workshop
Hear a Japanese tale and create Origami characters and objects from the story of the Ogre of Rashomon Gate. Suitable for primary aged children and their parents/carers or teachers.
Let's do Manga!
Have you ever drawn Manga? Do you know what Manga is? In our workshop, you will learn how to draw yourself "manga style" and create a yonkoma manga (4 cell manga) to tell a story.
Suitable for children aged 6+ and their parents/carers or teachers.
Bon Dance, dance, dance!
Have a go at the simple and easy-to-learn Bon dance! All you need is music and space!
Suitable for children aged 3+ and their parents/carers or teachers.
Meet the team
Co Artistic Director
Kumiko Mendl graduated with a BA Hons in Education Studies and trained at the Jacques Lecoq Theatre School in Paris. Since then she has worked as an actor, teacher, director, producer and storyteller.
She was one of the five founding members of Yellow Earth Theatre, the UK’s award winning British East Asian Theatre company. She has performed and directed for the company and became Yellow Earth’s Education and Outreach Associate in 2004. In 2011 she became Artistic Director of the company steering the company to become an Arts Council NPO in 2018 with a broad range of work developing and producing new British East and Southeast Asian (BESEA) work and providing training and professional opportunities for BESEA artists. In October 2020, Yellow Earth Theatre changed its name to New Earth Theatre. She has continued to freelance throughout her 30 years in theatre and acted at the National Theatre, Northampton Royal, The Gate, Young Vic, Polka Theatre, Tara Arts, and LIFT as well as run numerous outreach and participatory projects for Museums & Heritage organisations, schools, colleges and arts organisations.
She sits on the board of Curious Directive and True Heart Theatre Company and is a Clore Leader.
Vicky Ireland MBE
Co Artistic Director
Vicky trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and then worked as an actress in TIE and repertory theatres all over Britain. She presented BBC’s TV’s Words and Pictures for twelve years. From 1989 to 2002 she was Artistic Director of Polka Theatre for Children, London and is now a freelance director and writer.
In 2001, Vicky was a guest of the Japan Foundation and ASSITEJ Japan to study Children’s Theatre and primary education in Tokyo and Osaka.
She was awarded an MBE in 2002 for services to children’s drama, the first of its kind; made an Honorary Member of ASSITEJ (the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People) and a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts in 2014.
Current positions, Chair of the charity Action for Children’s Arts, a Patron of Polka Theatre, Board member of Savvy Theatre and Honorary Board member of IIAN, the International Inclusive Arts network.
Haruka is an actor, voice-over artist, fight director and intimacy coordinator. Since graduating from Guildford School of Acting, she has embarked on a successful career in Theatre, TV and Film.
She was the voice of Noodle from the iternationally acclaimed virtual pop band Gorillaz and toured the world with the band.
Haruka is a great comic actress and has worked with many comedians such as Johnny Vegas in awarding winning BBC3 comedy series Ideal, Paul Kaye (Chaos Laboratories), Alan Davies (Jonathan Creek) & Simon Day (Chaos Laboratories and Grass).
She was a co-presenter on an award winning CBBC show, Officially Amazing and currently holds two Guinness World records!
She is also a qualified Stage Combat Instructor (British Academy of Dramatic Combat) and has taught at various drama schools and workshops in the UK and Europe.
Julian is a freelance composer/lyricist/sound designer and specialises in writing for children's theatre. He has written music and lyrics for many shows, agencies, companies etc.
He also runs Gig Night for Wimbledon Bookfest with John Kennedy, an annual showcase for young musicians and is also a judge on the annual Wimbledon BookFest Young Writers' Competition.
He is represented in North America by Plays for Young Audiences. In 2016, he was very pleased to get an award for his Contribution to Children's Theatre at the JM Barrie Awards in London's BBC Radio Theatre, presented by Sir Michael Morpurgo.
Norifumi is a practitioner and researcher of theatre for young audiences, drama education, and applied theatre.
He studied for his MFA in Theatre Directing at East 15 Acting School, the University of Essex, and his PhD in Arts Education at the University of Warwick. After completing his PhD, he was a Research Associate to the MA in Theatre for Young Audiences at Rose Bruford College. In 2015, he moved to Japan and has been teaching theatre, communication skills or EFL (English as a foreign language) at different universities.
He is on the Editorial Board of ‘ArtsPraxis’ at New York University in the U.S.A; a Board Member of the Association for Language and Cultural Education; a Board Member of the International Theatre for Young Audiences Research Network, ASSITEJ and a Board Member of MIRAI Festival (2021 International Performing Arts Festival for Children and Young People in Japan).