[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/67719?ns=guardian&pageName=A+grown-up+attitude+to+children%27s+theatre+-+and+not+a+fairytale+in+sight%3AArticle%3A1311872&ch=Stage&c3=GU.co.uk&c4=Theatre%2CDance%2CStage%2CCulture+section&c6=David+Harradine&c7=09-Dec-01&c8=1311872&c9=Article&c10=Blogpost&c11=Stage&c13=&c25=Theatre+blog&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2Fblog%2FTheatre+blog[/img]It's taken theatre-makers a long time to realise the incredible opportunities offered by an audience full of young minds. But a handful of shows this Christmas suggest things are changing
There are rumblings in the landscape of performance for children, and they're getting stronger. Despite the brilliant work done over the last few years by a handful of genuinely cutting-edge companies, this is a field that is still tarnished by ideas about its triviality, its failure to take risks, and its bright and synthetic disregard for grown-up performance aesthetics. But looking at some of the work that's on offer in London this Christmas, it seems that there's definitely change afoot.
At the Barbican, live-art champions Lone Twin are working with Simon Silver and Guy Dartnell to create a variety show for four- to 10-year-olds. At the National, Katie Mitchell is directing a show for three- to six-year-olds. And at the Young Vic, my company, Fevered Sleep, is presenting a dance piece The Forest, for children aged three to seven. These are three companies or artists who are known for making work for adults, all making high-profile work for children. Three radically different approaches to what that work might look like and three festive shows without a fairytale or bauble between them. As someone who's known for a while that children make for an inquisitive, receptive and honest audience, it's refreshing to see a wider – and surprising – range of artists giving it a go.
Given the extraordinary ways in which children engage with performance, it's also surprising that there isn't more of this already. I've always revelled in the freedom that comes with making work for children. When you're making a show for, say, a three-year-old, you know that person doesn't know – and doesn't care – what "theatre" is. Unlike adult audiences, children come with no expectation of what they're about to see. That makes for a deliciously free space in which to create work, in which innovation, experimentation and risk can thrive. Performance is a way of ritualising how we see the world, and it's a way of playing. Children recognise and understand ritual and play on a very deep level, and that understanding can lead to an extraordinary synergy between the audience and the work. Because of this, even if children don't always know what "performance" is, they always know whether it's good (there'll be giggles and comments and rapture), and they always let you know when it's not (there'll be mayhem). There's no learned audience etiquette. Wouldn't it be better if it were always like that?
With unexpected artists modelling different ways of making work for children, perhaps the field will finally start to move beyond the attitude of defeatism that still calls out the usual complaints about lack of funding, support and opportunity. There are now many venues across the UK that are championing new work for younger and younger audiences, from Lakeside in Nottingham and the Unity in Liverpool to Warwick Arts Centre, the egg in Bath and the new National Theatre Wales. All of these places have demonstrated that they're willing to invest considerable resources, money and support in innovative, risk-taking projects. And with children and young people being one of the Arts Council's areas of priority, it's also no longer possible to say the funders aren't behind us.
Living and working through a period of extraordinary change – culturally, politically, environmentally – it seems to me that there's no better time for artists to be investing in the future by thinking of younger and younger people as thrilling, sophisticated and brilliantly receptive audiences for their work.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
View the full article
Guardian: A grown-up attitude to children's theatre - and not a fairytale in sight
No replies to this topic
0 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users