The Strange Train Company
Performance Collective specialising in Outdoor Work combining Narrative, Music and Visuals

Next Stop

Find out where the Strange Train is going next...

sharing from the sidings...

As we look ahead to 2019 we wanted to remind ourselves of this beautiful commission for the National Trust: The Magnificent Menagerie of Mrs Strange. Produced for 'Live at Lyme' in September 2017 supported by The National Trust, and Waterside & Creative Industries Trafford. Image copyright to Jason Lock Photography 2017.

It’s wonderful to dream about where we might go next knowing that Mrs Strange and her menagerie have opened our eyes to the possibilities of creating strikingly funny, light and playful work. And with new collaborators excited to work with us, we anticipate some fun times ahead!

Sophie Tyrrell
Hello stranger...

It's been a very long time since we last posted here, and there's so much to catch up on!

The Strange Train Company is currently enjoying a  period of R&D. That's 'research and development'; we must have taken a wrong turn, becuase we were hoping for some 'R&R'....

Earlier this season Sophie enjoyed a period of mentorship with Alex Rigg, as she designed and made costumes for Manchester Day, collaborating once again with performers from The Circus House, Manchester. His incredible sculptural costumes and choreography make him a most inspiring artist to work with!

This opportunity has already impacted on the evolution of 'The Magnificent Menagerie of Mrs Strange', and the development of some interesting movement work, and by next year some new costume elements. We have enjoyed taking this early stage work onto the streets at Manchester Day, and Refract Festival, at Waterside Arts, Sale.

Travelling with us this year we have been delighted to include musicians, Paul Jones, and Hels Davies. Their collaboration will lead the train onto new 'tracks'....

And so, the train continues it's journey, sometimes meandering, frequently pausing for essential maintenance, but always looking to the next stop, wherever that may be.




Sophie Tyrrell
Proud to have been, 'Live at Lyme!'

It was a foul day for weather! Thunderstorms and torrential rain forecast all day! The worst possible scenario for outside arts. We arrived at Lyme at 9am, and immediately began working on a Plan B Scenario.

Walking around the beautiful interiors of Lyme Hall, before they opened, and while the housekeepers swept and vaccuumed, we pondered which of our scenarios could transfer to which spaces. Two out of three scenes could go indoors. The third was scheduled for the moment the forecasters predicted a pause in the rain.

The cast took the news well, and responded positively to the need to find an alternative ending to our scene 'Tea with the Beasts', which would now not include the Rhinoceros.

And somehow, with the amazingly responsive staff at the National Trust, and support from the team at Waterside Arts, we performed, mostly Outside!

It was a tremendous day! Our audience were rewarded for venturing forth in the cold and wet. A strange and wonderfully entertaining troupe brought a menagerie to the house and gardens, and a magical day happened.

How appropriate that as our unicycling Cassowarys completed their ballet, the final act of the day, a thunderbolt sent out its spiky fingers across the sky and the dark heavens showered us all with enormous hailstones!




Sophie Tyrrell
The Magnificent Menagerie of Mrs Strange!

Join The Strange Train Company at the splendid Lyme Hall for a hilarious encounter with the extraordinary Mrs Strange and her travelling menagerie!

This popular Regency entertainment has been re-imagined by the artists of the Strange Train, who bring for your curiosity and delight this most exceptional menagerie of wild beasts!

'And recently shipped from Botany bay are three stupendous Cassowary birds who walk and run about in pleasing attitude'

'And behold the dancing bear! As tame and good humoured as he is beautiful.'

'And the most tremendous public experience of animal magnetism yet, is the pleasure of taking tea with the beasts'

Observe the Magnificent Menagerie of Mrs Strange! in its fullest and most pleasing glory in the gardens of the finest house in all England!

Saturday 9th September and Sunday 1st October 2017.

Lyme Hall, Lyme Park, Stockport. SK12 2NR.






Sophie Tyrrell

Didsbury Arts Festival 2017.

'Roots'. Hmm.

Didsbury: Dad's work at the Polytechnic, swimming, conkers, warm beer, river walks, mud pies, ballet class, orchids, the 42 bus, American Ice Cream.

American Ice Cream....American Ice Cream....American Ice Cream.....

I spoke to my dad.

Do you remember the 'American ice Cream' store in Didsbury? No. You must remember. We used to go after swimming. No. I don't remember. But you must remember, Kate used to always have licorice ice cream, it made her tongue black. No. I don't remember. I'm sorry. You seriously don't remember? No, but have you seen the old Polytechnic campus? You know they've turned my old office into expensive flats? Yes.

I spoke to my big sister.

Do you remember the 'American ice Cream' store in Didsbury? Yes! I used to have licorice ice cream, and it made my tongue black! I'm so glad you remember! Dad doesn't remember. I began to think I'd imagined it. Anyway I'm thinking of making a show about it. You should. It would be a great show....

So, now I am making a show about it.

The show is called Didsbury's Lost American Ice Cream Store. And now you know why.

Didsbury's Lost American Ice Cream Store appears at a secret outdoor location in Didsbury on 1st and 2nd July 2017.  The show has been commissioned by Didsbury Arts Festival.


Sophie Tyrrell
Incredibly Good Day!

Welcome to the Engine Room and a sneaky peak behind the scenes!

Today was a big day for our latest creation 'The Incredible Spiderwoman!'. It was fantastic to see the brilliantly comic Natalya Penfold inhabit this costume for the first time.

It isn't until the costume is lifted off the stand and placed on the performer's back that the idea comes to life! Today we saw a glimpse of where this character is going. Audiences are in for a treat!

And of course there is much work to do on the costume before we can proudly say it's finished.

'The Incredible Spiderwoman!' makes her debut at an event in Longsight on July 1st. Details to follow.

Sophie Tyrrell
Save the Day! Manchester Day 2017

Excited to announce that The Strange Train Company are once again working The Circus House Manchester CIC to create a splendid entertainment for Manchester Day 2017! Sunday 18th June!

Directed by Owen Gaynor of Circus House the work will celebrate the groups acrobatic skills in a site specific performance in Cathedral gardens.

Watch this space for updates on the groups progress!

The Circus House  at Manchester Day 2014.

The Circus House at Manchester Day 2014.

Sophie Tyrrell

I am in the engine room thinking about the word 'Spectacle'. There are a number of reasons for this.

1. This week I had to reach for a pair of random reading glasses while sewing at the machine. I do not wear glasses, having always enjoyed 'long sight'. I can no longer see the eye of the needle clearly enough to thread it. The spectacles helped.

2. A reminder from the optician that my eye test is overdue has today dropped through the post box. Timely. Will I now need spectacles of my own?

3. Last night I went to the Lowry to enjoy a Spectacle! It was a French theatre show. In French Spectacle = show. It was also a show of brilliant visuals and hilarious clowning. Spectacle.

4. I have 3 Strange Train projects on the go. My aim for each of them is that they should be Spectacles! With so much admin. for each show, I am worried I may lose sight of this....





Sophie Tyrrell
The Strange Train is ready for departure...

On a sunny Manchester Day way way back in 2012, having triumphantly steered our Great Elephant of Technological Advancement and a motley assortment of parents and kids dressed as equally unruly circus performers through the streets of central Manchester, I felt that unusual surge of excitement that you get when you wake from a great dream, and know when you next fall asleep you can return, and do it all again. 

Whilst to others it may have looked like I was enjoying a busman's holiday, the first jaunt into street theatre, puppetry and performance has continued to grow like a magic bean. And now after many collaborations and playful encounters, I haven't got a beanstalk, but I seem to be steering a strange train. 

With a couple of exciting commissions confirmed for 2017, this blog post will soon be followed by others from the Engine Room, where we are already busy dreaming, scheming, planning, making...

Meanwhile, The Strange Train extends its thanks to all the people who have helped on the journey so far. From the generosity of professionals to the willingness of friends, family, community groups, and audiences, to dress up and join in! Thank you all!

Toot! Toot!

Neil Jacob