Mark Arends: 'There is no theatre more important than that which is accessible to younger minds'
Make Mend and Do's Mark Arends explains his latest show, opening at the Old Vic today
The Missing Light is a play about growing old. It is about love, loss, loneliness and isolation. Or rather, overcoming isolation. It's about reaching out a hand to those in need and about taking that hand if and when it's extended to you.
I formed Make Mend and Do Theatre Company in 2012 with the intention of making theatre suitable for both children and grown ups that discussed big themes whilst using inventive theatrical techniques. My ﬁrst two shows Something Very Far Away and At The End of Everything Else both opened at the Unicorn Theatre before touring nationally and internationally.
The Missing Light is our third play: a live, animated, silent movie. We'll use puppets, cameras, projectors and music to tell a tale of two elderly friends united through their isolation and coming together for one last adventure.
Live animation is something I've become drawn to. It's a way to tell a story very literally whilst also embracing a heightened theatricality: taking the things I love about theatre, the things I love about ﬁlm and leaving the things that frustrate me about both.
It is, however, not without it's challenges. There's an awful lot of technical kit. Four cameras, three projectors, a video mixer, lights, sound, guitar pedals and a million miles of cable (rough estimate). Plus, we have more teeny-tiny puppets and props than I could even attempt to list. Everything has to be delicately handled (it's all very fragile) and precisely placed (in our miniature world a prop or piece of set an inch off it's mark would be equivalent to a meter or two on a full sized stage). Attention to detail is everything.
It's an exceptionally exciting thing to have this scale of work for a young audience produced at such a prestigious theatre. I hope it's a strand of programming that The Old Vic continue and that other big companies follow. There is simply no way we could make this show without the ﬁnancial, administrative and technical support that a venue such as this can offer.
For me, there is no such thing as children's theatre or grown up's theatre. There's just theatre. Some of it may be more suitable for people of a certain age than others but the time, respect and creativity that go into making it remain the same. Within the industry I have experienced, at times, a sort of snobbishness or patronising attitude towards "family" or "kids" theatre, as if it's a lesser form for a lesser audience in need of less attention to detail. Far from it. There is no theatre more important than that which is accessible to younger minds, they are the most vital, interested and exciting audience you can either play to or create for. This is the ethos my team and I share, The Old Vic has embraced it and us wholeheartedly, providing encouragement and expertise at every turn. We're incredibly excited to be creating this show in this exceptionally beautiful theatre.
The Missing Light runs at the Old Vic until 4 April.