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Lizzie’s 3rd Bologna Blog

March 11, 2009

Lizzie’s 3rd Bologna Blog
The festival continues. Fatigue and adrenalin beginning to play their normal game with me of seeing who can win. Rachel keeps herself going on lots of coffee but more than two cups a day for me and my heart goes into orbit so need to find other means of survival ( in case this sounds truly pathetic, in my defence I would like to say that driving around Birmingham at 4 am looking for the car park and landing in thick fog at Bologna airport – when we didn’t realise that we were landing and thus thought the sounds as the plane hit the runway were that of the plane falling apart in midair! left me a bit nervy and sleep depleted before I arrived.)

Think the length of my blogs have been getting a little out of hand – so will focus this entry on one of the talks that were given as part of the Assitej conference. Lise Hovik from Norway gave a very interesting talk. She is doing some action based research and has created a piece of participatory theatre for very young children based on the Red Shoes. The principle here is that small children are allowed to enter the stage area and adults are not allowed to stop them. They needed to observe and accept the children’s interventions. The actors have their focus and attention on the scenic action and don’t directly interact with the children although, of course, they are aware of them and may change/modify what they do. They used the Red Shoes story as an inspiration – shoes that have their own will – but the story is not told directly (which, assuming you know the story, is not surprising). Lise made it clear that the research started from the artistic idea first and then the theoretical basis. The more artistic, the better. Small children are a good audience – unconventional, curious, sensory.  She stated that art ought to be touchable, playable and with the possibility of interaction. This is a controversial point because much art for the young is not like this – but from her DVD  it was apparent that the work was for children of maybe 18 months and younger. She posed some questions. How do small children, one year olds, meet interactive art/theatre? For them is there a difference between theatre and life? She categorised 1 year old children into 3 types (1) the observer – sitting on the lap, immobile, watching (2) the player – back and forth toddling (3) the actor – participating in the scene actions, mimetic action, adding new content to the play.

Several of the speakers talked about work with babies but, looking through the programme of this festival, none of the work was designed for under ones. And most of the pieces that said they were designed for children as young as 1 were in fact attended by children aged 2 or 3 or more. So despite the theoretical debates about theatre for such young audiences the reality is that this is still an area that people shy away from – for, I am sure, artistic, theoretical and  practical (financial) reasons. In my previous blog I mentioned some of the comments made by Evelyn Goldfinger from Argentina in relation to theatre for babies and she raised other issues. Why do babies need theatre when they have a whole world to discover? Are babies being targeted for cultural consumption – could theatre over stimulate them? But, as was mentioned in several discussions at the festival, theatre for babies is for the babies and their parents/carers. When society lacks places to bring people together – when we don’t seek out spiritual arenas, when art is far away from our everyday routines, then maybe theatre – a place of ceremony (and I am not meaning this in any quasi religious sense) can awaken our senses and those of our children in a way that is both pleasurable and meaningful.

And I’ve just been looking through one or two of the documents that I brought back with me and have found this quote from Charlotte Fallon of Theatre de la Guimbarde.
‘Toddlers are unifiers. We should open theatres and museums to them; their presence transforms our attitudes. With them, I take the time to live; their curiosity stimulates mine. What a pleasure to be curious.’ Hmmm. I think that puts it beautifully.

Lise should be sending me a link so that I can download her Red Shoes film (it’s only short) and if/when she does I will pass it on.

Now time for a festival photo, I think. Emma and Rachel with fellow festival folk Joe and Julie.

Emma, Joe, Julie and Rachel

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