Siyanda, Protector of Plants
Available For Touring
This show is available for touring. Please contact for bookings and information.
Previous Show
Ages Ages 4-11
Running Time 30 minutes
Venue Temperate House
Ended October 2018
Siyanda, Protector of Plants
Show News
Siyanda brings plants to life in Kew’s Temperate House
Read more Siyanda, Protector of Plants news
"All the children were extremely quiet, that is rare, they were absorbed by it. It was beautiful."
- Audience member

About the Show

Siyanda was created for Kew Gardens in 2018 as a 30 minute walk about performance created specifically for their Temperate House.  Siyanda is part of our repetoire and can the format and content of the show can be adapted for other sites.

Originally performed in October 2018, Siyanda, Protector of Plants invited visitors to explore the recently refurbished Temperate House at Kew Gardens. The Temperate House, the world’s largest surviving Victorian glasshouse, had recently reopened its doors after a huge five-year restoration.  If you would like to discuss an adapated version of Siyanda please contact

Enter into the mystical world of plants with Siyanda; a theatrical experience using live music, puppetry and performance.

Siyanda has been the guardian of plants for many, many years and knows all their secrets - join her to become a fully fledged plant protector and learn how to protect our vibrant planet!

A larger-than-life puppet, Siyanda towers at six-feet tall and her dress is adorned with seeds, grasses and other special items to assist her on her quest. Accompanying her are three performers; her fellow ‘Plant Protectors’ who immerse visitors in the adventure.

This walkabout performance was co-directed by Sue Buckmaster and Joy Haynes, and the beautiful Siyanda was made by Naomi Oppenheim.

Photos: © Jeff Eden

Ashton Owen

Ashton trained at East 15 Acting School. 

Atir, ZERRAFA GIRAFFA (Omnibus Theatre & Little Angel Theatre Co-Production) Lil Prince, BREAKING THE BAND (Potato ITV studios/Reelz Channel) Mason, Captain Grammaticus/Bracket/Bookworm GRAMMAR GIRL, Kay, Mr Crow, Brae, SNOW QUEEN (Quantum Theatre)

Carlos Mendoza

Originally from Spain, Carlos Mendozq  graduated from the physical Theatre programme at the Royal School of Acting, RESAD, Madrid. He continued his training at Rose Bruford College, London.

He is also a professional musician, his main instruments being Viola and Violin.

After his education he became part of the Young Complicite Theatre Company project, and he has been working with different Theatre companies including, Ramshacklicious , with The Band at the end of the world, Dans la Poche with  La Sibylle, Nonshuch with The Party’s Over and Told by an Idiot with Let me play the lion too.

Hattie Thomas

Hattie is an actor, musician and puppeteer who trained at Rose Bruford College and DAMU in Prague. She is one of the Co-Artistic Directors of Smoking Apples Theatre Company with whom she is currently working on Flux, a show about a female physicist called Kate.

Recent theatre credits include: In Our Hands by Smoking Apples Theatre Company, (UK Tour 2016 and 2017), A Christmas Carol, by Smoking Apples Theatre Company, (Salisbury Arts Centre 2017), CELL by Smoking Apples Theatre Company, (George Town Festival, Malaysia, 2017 and Recklinghausen Fringe Festival, Germany, 2016).

Film and TV credits include: Eider Falls at Lake Tahoe music video by Kate Bush, Tiny Dancers advert by Velvet TV, London Dungeon advert by David Ellis/Quiet Storm. 

James Gow

James is a multi-instrumentalist and composer with a BA in Music from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Outside of the theatre he can occasionally be seen in several bands including Cocos Lovers and others from the Smugglers Records folk scene, London based genre-hopping jazz-fusion group Lunch Money, and Ian Ross' Bristol based folk quartet Eleven Magpies.

Theatre includes: Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), Tristan & Yseult, Brief Encounter (Kneehigh);James & the Giant Peach (West Yorkshire Playhouse) and The Band at the End of the World (Ramshacklicious).

Ruth Calkin

Ruth is a puppeteer, musician and actor, currently appearing monthly at Brasserie Zedel in the extraordinary adult puppet cabaret The Clementine Show! Other recent work includes: Sarah & Ducks Big Top Birthday (Polka/MEI); Clementines Christmas Special - Live @ Zedel; The Walthamstow Mysteries (dir. by Steve Tiplady). Also: Dogs Dont Do Ballet (Little Angel Theatre); Moominsummer Madness (Polka/Royal & Derngate); Puppetry Director and original cast for In The Night Garden Live (Minor Ent/BBC Worldwide); A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings (Little Angel/Kneehigh); The Tempest (Little Angel/RSC); Horrid Henry Live and Horrid! (Watershed Productions/Trafalgar Studios); Danny the Champion of the World (Birmingham Stage Company - being Dr Spencer & learning to make very convincing chicken noises) and The Mouse Queen (Little Angel/Monstro - puppeteering Tilly Mouse and becoming addicted to cheese).

Theodora Songhai

Theodora Songhai is a repertory-theatre trained actress, storyteller and a recent graduate from the MA Text and Performance program at RADA and Birkbeck College. She has been involved in performance as a participant and maker since 2012 with experience in large-scale events, film, collaborations with performance artists and working with mask.  Her expertise and passion lie in interactive and site-specific theatre.

Her theatre credits include Rhapsody of The Killjoy (RADA Festival), Handa’s Surprise (Little Angel Theatre), Sulphur (Sheila Ghelani), The Sherlock Holmes Experience (Les Enfants Terribles/Madame Tussauds), Superhero (The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre), Graceful (The Arts Theatre), The Tragedy of Snow White (RADA), Robin Hood's Ngaya (Birkbeck), Project Colony (Fourth Monkey Theatre Company), The Peculiar Tale of Pablo Picasso (Fourth Monkey Theatre Company).  

Sue Buckmaster

Sue is the Artistic Director of Theatre-Rites and the fourth generation of theatre practitioners in her family. 

In 2018 Sue was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Essex in recognition of her inspiring leadership in theatre direction and puppetry.

Sue has many years of experience as a director, puppetry specialist and teacher, and has worked with a wide variety of companies including the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Young Vic, Sadler's Wells and Complicite. 

For more information about Sue's work - click here

Joy Haynes
Associate Artist, co-director

Joy Haynes has 30 years experience working as a designer and theatre maker, director and performer. She is a passionate advocate for the development and recognition of Puppetry as a distinct and vibrant art-form in the UK. In 2016 she left her role as Director of Norwich Puppet Theatre (NPT). During her tenure the company created and toured inventive puppetry productions to schools and venues throughout the UK and presented an outstanding programme of national and international puppet and visual theatre for all ages.

Joy has spent many years creating and touring productions across the UK and internationally. She has worked with a range of partners including Banyan Theatre Company, mac Birmingham, Little Angel Theatre, Polka Theatre and Royal Opera House.

Joy initiated and delivered the first City and Guilds in Puppet Making and Performance with Norfolk Adult Education, which she taught for 11 years and was instrumental in developing NPT’s profile as a leading proponent of outstanding courses and workshops led by international artists. Her experience also includes developing and delivering workshops and education programmes for children of all ages.

Naomi Oppenheim
Puppet Maker

Naomi is a designer and maker based in London. She studied Technical Effects for Performance at University of the Arts London, specialising in puppetry.

Theatre includes The Trench and The Terrible Infants (Les Enfants Terribles), Beasty Baby and The Welcoming Party (Theatre-Rites), Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs 2: The Magic Cutlass (Les Petits), Ding Dong and Ariel on the Cliff  (Cloud Cuckoo Land), The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Ardingly College), Melody Loses Her Mojo (20 Stories High)  


Siyanda brings plants to life in Kew’s Temperate House

In October 2018, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, welcomed Siyanda, the Protector of Plants.

This week, the newest addition to Theatre-Rites brought joy and intrigue to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Protecting plants, educating families and sharing horticultural secrets, Siyanda engaged people young and old in the walkabout performance co-directed by Sue Buckmaster and Joy Haynes.

To celebrate the reopening of the Kew Gardens’ Temperate House, Siyanda and her 3 accomplished Plant Protectors explored some of the 10,000 plant species growing in the greenhouse, where she has been a guardian for many, many years.

From the extinct St Helena Olive, to the Encephalatos Woodii – the last male of its kind who has yet to find a female – our audience learned about what it means to be a plant protector like Siyanda and pledged their allegiance to the cause.

With over one thousand five hundred audience members during her residency at Temperate House, we are delighted to announce that Siyanda has successfully produced a new generation of Plant Protectors, who will aid her in her quest to preserve plants across the world.

"All the children were extremely quiet, that is rare, they were absorbed by it. It was beautiful."
- Audience member