The Underlibrary of unofficial
A NORPA Production.
Co- Created by Valley Lipcer and Caleb Lewis.
Duration: 2 hours | Age recommendation: 8 – 10 years / Stage 2-3.
Part immersive theatre, part game and part quirky research project, The UnderLibrary of UnOfficial Histories is a highly original work and an exciting journey into history through imagination and wonder.
The experience begins with a series of mysterious postcards, a newspaper article and artefacts ‘arriving’ at the school, follows up with an in-school performance and culminates in an interactive puzzle hunt as students race to discover the clues that will help Zelda, a girl from the future, reunite with her long lost brother and save all of history !
The show pilot toured in 2021 to four schools in the Clarence Valley, NSW and has since toured to 15 schools in the Northern Rivers, NSW.
THE STORY by Caleb Lewis
Far, far in the future there is a library called History’s End. The library is huge, though most of its bookshelves are empty. The library is open, though no one visits, except the moths.
The library has a hundred books, but only one title, as every copy is the same. It’s a history book, from way back in 2021. No one knows what came after; that’s the year history stopped. And with each nightly visit from the moths, a little more disappears.
By day, the librarians mend the books as best they can, but covers and bindings both are easier to replace than all the many missing words. Picture it: whole pages are riddled with holes, gulping words and sometimes sentences and paragraphs too until all that’s left is lace. And then it’s the librarians’ job to look at what’s left and guess at what’s gone and fill in the gaps as best they can. This means that chapters are always changing, as words come and go, and a book you picked up on a Monday might contradict itself by Tuesday and by Friday be another book entirely!
The head librarian is a man named Finch and it’s his job to make sure the few books left all tell the same story, so there can never be any confusion or doubt. And as the library lends its books out to all the surrounding cities, it’s Finch who has the last word on history. Every afternoon he reviews the day’s revisions, making sure they all add up. Those that don’t are dispensed with: torn up and tossed out. It might seem harsh, but with so few books left, history is far too valuable to get into fights about. That’s how wars used to start! Which is why it’s so important every history book agrees on what happened in the past and when and why. The system isn’t perfect, but so long as there’s only one book, and the moths keep coming, there’s nothing else to do.
Twins, Albus and Zelda, work in the library and it’s their job to dust the books and shoo away the moths. While Zelda is curious, always asking questions and getting into trouble, her brother Albus is quiet and cautious, though he delights in riddles. Zelda loves history but Albus prefers mysteries – though he’s never read one as none are left in the library. But when a mysterious crate full of brand new books from the past appears late one night, the brother and sister will discover a secret library where they’ll learn that history is far more complicated than they thought.
But when Albus is seized by Mr Finch and the two fall through time, along with a couple of moths, so begins Zelda’s quest to bring her brother home, and save the future. However, the only clue she has is a handful of torn pages from a book called ‘The History of New South Wales ’.
This is a rescue mission. To find Albus and restart History. And Zelda needs your help. Because her brother is here. She’s just not sure when.
Co-creators: Valley Lipcer & Caleb Lewis
Writer & Game Designer: Caleb Lewis
Director & Dramaturg: Valley Lipcer
Performer: Melia Naughton
Costume & Set Design: Charlotte Haywood & Ed Horne
Education Resources: Valley Lipcer
Graphic Designer: Anja Roehrdanz
The impact of this theatre through both the preliminary materials and the show is immeasurable. Students and teachers alike were immersed in History, living the experience/story as they were creatively engaged in Historical Inquiry through the skills and concepts of the History Syllabus. The team developed a well-researched body of knowledge of the Clarence and its history, the Stage 2 History syllabus, and the impacts that various components of interactive theatre can have on young people. The creative ways in which the theatre was able to engage our students in becoming Historians, has provided not only a platform for lifelong learning and interest in History for our students but impacted History teaching pedagogy into the future.
Education Officer, Catholic School Office Lismore
I just want to pass on my thanks for giving our students such a wonderful experience this week. It was a pleasure to watch their faces as they engaged with Zelda. The week leading up to the show was filled with wonder, excitement and many possible scenarios as they engaged with the mysterious deliveries. A huge congratulations to Melia on her outstanding performance. Keeping that many children totally engrossed is a testament to her skills. So thank you for allowing our children to be part of such a professional performance.
Teacher, St Mary’s Primary School