Lizzie’s second Bologna post

March 9, 2009

Day Two My day started beautifully (if a little early) with a lovely show, performed with exquisite grace. The production was for children as young as 1 but the audience in this case was 2/3. A very different performance style from yesterday morning. Again one woman performing but this performance style was without direct contact with the audience. She moved through her world and we watched. This production found its inspiration in the concept of the universal journey. Maybe a cliche? Not in this interpretation. This has made me think – you can take a basic and well known idea but by bringing such beautiful and careful aesthetic consideration to your material you can make something quite different and special. What I liked about this piece is that it had shape – it literally had shapes that were moved into different configurations – but, of course, I really mean the shape of the narrative path. It led us on a journey and when we reached our destination we knew where we had been and why this point of arrival was the place where we wanted to be. This production wove together so beautifully the aesthetic concept, abstract signs, the movements and vocalisations of the performer (not many words and a little singing) and a wonderful use of music, both directly created sounds and a soundtrack.  The small children watched with mesmerising intensity, occasionally contributing vocally. (How I wish I could speak Italian because I missed all the children’s interjections in the various shows – and from the reactions of the adults, I could sense that their comments were often apt and/or amusing.)  Watching this production I felt as though the children and the adults and the performers were all breathing in the same rhythm. There was a sense of ritual and the imagery was, at times, biblical.  This is an elemental show. A little slow at times – but a show that has only just been born and will surely be starting on its own journey. And the final moment, with projection of the star constellations, was heavenly.

On this day we had our first session of the workshop ‘A possible theatre’. Roberto Frabetti led the session. There is no point me trying to write a full report of this as it would be too extensive so I will just alight on  a few moments. ‘There is no theatre without audience’ Well I would like to link this statement to an interesting talk that was given by one of the speakers, Evelyn Goldfinger from Argentina, at the Assitej conference later in the week. This talk was in relation to theatre for babies. If a spectator doesn’t know that he/she is part of an illusion then it cannot be theatre. If you don’t know you are in front of an illusion then you cannot be a spectator. Instead what you are witnessing is a deception. For it to be theatre you need to collude. If you are too young to collude and you cannot draw the line between reality and illusion then is it theatre? (And does this question matter?) Discuss! I will return to this issue later. But, back to the workshop. And to a simple question to ask ourselves ‘Are the children enjoying themselves?’  (And how do we know if they are very young and cannot tell us. And what do we mean by ‘enjoyment’?) Roberto spent quite a bit of the morning telling us about the project “theatre scribbles’ – a practical methodology that they have developed from research over the last few years looking at children’s capacity, through physical movement and mirroring, to achieve their own use of the language of gesture. More recently they have been exploring the possibility of very young children creating ‘theatrical moments’ to show to the other children. (We are talking about children as young as 2/3 here) They had concerns  about whether it was alright to ask such young children if they would like to present movement in front of other children, to create this moment of theatre.  Roberto commented that we give tools to children – paper, music etc but we rarely give them the body as a tool. I think I may have missed a point here because everything had to be translated and the slowness of this process may have led to lapses in my concentration but I’m not quite sure why they wished to explore this sense of ‘showing.’ The ‘theatre scribbles’, in which the children can opt in and out of participation, seems more comprehensible. Encouraging children to be at ease with their bodies moving through physical space and using a language of body gesture e.g. a hand weaving to symbolise a fish seems to be a fairly basic but often neglected aspect of child development. Roberto also pointed out that there is  a crucial difference between pretend play (flap your arms to be the wings of a bird) and aesthetic awareness, mirroring abstract movement and developing it. It is the latter that is the essence of this work. Actually, as I write this, I think I have remembered the point of the ‘showing’. I think it was to discover if very young children can delineate symbols through movement without adult guidance. So, if you say to a 3 year old, show me the sea – can they find their own (and not copied) physical gestures for this.

In the evening we witnessed another experimental ‘studio’. Oh what a delight this was – and what a challenge for the health and safety guardians! A man in his overalls – an electrician – playing with his cables, with sockets, with on and off, with shadows created by the light, with cause and effect. I loved this.  A wonderful performer with a special quality. I saw him in two other productions and each time his manner on stage had much to do with the success of the piece. I think someone during the festival said that some performers just have whatever it takes to perform successfully for children and this performer was living proof of that statement. Now it would probably be useful to analyse that quality but I find it quite impossible. Partly the way you look, partly an ability to have a very understated clown like quality (without in any sense being a clown), an ease on stage, a warmth that comes across without trying too hard (trying too hard rarely works…) And of course there isn’t just one type of performer who can be successful in performing to children – a calm and reflective and concentrated presence such as I saw in the morning show described above (which was a completely opposite style of performing) was also very effective. At the end of the 10 minute performance the actor asked if he should continue with the experiment. Well yes – and no – I don’t believe any child is likely to electrocute themselves as the result of watching this show but will parents and educators accept it or is it too much dabbling with danger? I can (unfortunately) already hear the howls of protest. Oh well, I would so much like to think the idea could find an onwards life – it was full of light moments in every respect!!! And very memorable. That’s enough for now. Two blogs in one day! Still feeling shattered from the week away. Will try to write up another day tomorrow if I can find time.

Also will try to say less next time because this is maybe a bit long – but there is SO much to say – and my brain is feeling very full so perhaps this blog is a good way of emptying it out a little. If I write it down I won’t have to remember it because I can just go back and read what I have read!

One comment

  1. Hmm so much to think about here Liz!! Youo have been having a full and wonderful time. completely agree re. some performers and that understated clown like quality. Why do we have health & safety silliness here – i love the idea of the ‘light’ show – weren’t u thinking about doing a show with ‘light’ for little ones? toddlers love wires, cables, and bulbs – every parent knows that!
    re. tactile nature of some of the performances – i have to say we use touch as part of our shows – we kind of have to because of the participatory nature of the shows. I think it’s madness to exclude adult touch from young children. of course we are careful who we cast – well see what you think when u come to space hoppers.
    look forward to reading more,
    love tash x

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