Thoughts from Tash

April 30, 2010

I’ve been thinking over what both Lizzie’s have written in their last blogs – since you’ve both provided plenty of food for thought. It was fascinating to read about Liz’s personal journey back to her old home council estate and the questions you raise Liz are so pertinent and also entirely connected to Roberto’s speech at the conference.  Why does quality theatre matter? Lizzie, it was great to read the quotes from your current reading, especially as you only touched on this subject when in Villach but I was tantalizingly left hanging wanting to know more – guess I’ll just have to add it to my reading list!

I’ve been thinking about my impulses and motivations as to why I want to make theatre for children and in particular the very young!  From my point of view I do currently have a very young family which is an inspiration but also a drain on physical and mental energy (you know where I’m coming from on that score I’m sure!).  I have realised that I get a lot of drive and reasoning from direct personal memories of my childhood –which I am always amazing Lars about with how much and what details I can remember!  Like Liz I had very little formal/direct theatre experience in my childhood, but I did have fantastic storytellers and hugely creative personalities in my upbringing. I remember saying to Liz on the plane that the ‘play’ I had as a child was the best training for the theatre I then went in to.  Initially I was excited about making work for adult audiences and the emphasis of the work that I used to make with Isabel was about how we wanted to interpret an existing story. There was plenty of thought about the theatrical presentation and the exploration for us ‘as artists’ but very little thought for the journey of our audiences and what ( if anything) they would take from the show.  Now, working in children’s theatre, the emphasis is very much on the audience and what they understand or how they can be engaged with.  I find this a much more exciting way to make theatre because it involves another ‘partner’ to the creative team. I was really interested to hear Myrto speaking about how she makes work for children – and she stated that she never thinks of the ‘child’ it is intended for – at all!  Of course, she then back tracked a bit and said well obviously you have to think of the idea/concept of the show – is it relevant to young children – but not of the theatrical form.  She applies the same sophisticated theatrical forms to her work for adults or children.  I found this v interesting.  There were many things that personally speaking I don’t agree with in what Myrto has to say, however, I do believe, like Myrto, that children should be presented sophisticated theatrical forms – and I believe if presented appropriately the children will follow them.

Woodbeat entrance

Accompanying music to the entrance to woodbeat

‘Woodbeat’ for example is a highly sophisticated piece of theatre.  It is not linear, and yet there is logic to the events in the show.  Everything is connected by the material explored – wood!  The music is made from wood or wood related materials.  There is beauty in the simplicity of the materials used – but there is nothing simple about the construct of the piece. Here’s that ‘simplicity’ idea again Lizzie – I know exactly what you mean, it’s a sort of distilled simplicity – full of meaning/relevance but it appears to be so effortless and ‘simple’.  I saw this show for the first time at Takeoff, when Astrid saw it with Leli (Marlene’s little boy) and was bowled over then.  This time seeing it again, gave me an opportunity to try to analyse why?  It’s wonderful seeing children’s behaviours & games remodelled but with very simple puppet/objects ie. the little ‘too doo’ who is trying to wake his parent or is stopping them from having a nap. The children immediately identified with the situation in an instinctive way, they giggled and stared, identifying with ‘too doo’ just as the parents were identifying with the sleepy parent creature.  For me the moment, when the children are invited to step into the ‘wood’ by stepping out onto the path, is absolutely, heart breakingly beautiful. It’s so full of emotion – even without seeing my daughter take her first tentative steps on this occasion.  It distils and concentrates those first ‘independent’ steps.  The child’s choices, emotions and reactions are completely open and become so much more symbolic of their steps through life.  Independent steps are taken every day in small ways and on other days in giant leaps, but this ‘performance’ enables you, as a spectator and parent, to somehow experience the emotion of that separation in such a momentous way.  For me it was also a memory of asserting my independence – of those first independent steps away from my parents too.  Am not sure I have the right words to explain the emotion I mean – but I certainly can feel the tears pricking now – just reflecting on it. For me this is ‘art’.

Going deeper into the woods!

It has been such an inspiration to share and indulge in quality theatre – and it really makes you understand why it is so necessary to not only ensure that children have an experience of quality theatre but that they have the opportunity to experience it often! – as Roberto stated in his speech.

I am currently working with a nursery group of children in Leeds and am shocked at their lack of communication and imaginative skills – then when you see their role play corner you see why a little!!!  These are children whose idea of what stories are, is CBeebies.  Noticeably I can pick out the children who are read to at home – it’s so clear that their imagination is so much more developed.  This group of children are the same age as Astrid, but imaginatively they are poles apart. I am not saying this because I want to put my daughter on a pedestal and say how advanced she is, because in many ways she isn’t – but in terms of her imagination, emotional intelligence and communication skills she is light years ahead.  The reason for this is simple – it’s ‘play’ and theatre – the 2 things go hand in hand – and I can see what an impact quality theatre has on her ‘informal’ learning – it makes me value theatre for the young even more.  It seems clear that if you don’t ignite children’s imagination then they can’t function properly as ‘research & developers’ (to quote Lizzie) they need to spark off all sorts of pathways to make meaningful connections in their brains.  It is I guess what helps to make us sensitive beings.  The kind of, ‘sensitive beings’, that Roberto alluded to in his inspiring speech in Villach.

Well, I think I have to sign off here as it is now getting too technical for my brain – and I need to start reading Lizzie’s book – unless she has anymore pearls of wisdom to drop?



  1. hi Tash, This is so interesting what you are picking up on, and is the same globally. Here in Perth, at Joannas school, year 1 is like a reception class and as ive written in my update to Early Arts online, the differences you find in childrens imaginative capacity is really distinct, those that have parental stimulus and those that have none, mainly tv/computer fills the gap. This lack of experential learning doesnt set off the”sparks” in our brains that are needed for the rest of our lives. And what a gift that is ……..
    How sad for the have nots and how much is needed the right ey intervention to assist this through theatre, creative play and positive evryday experiences. Love Rx

  2. I really loved woodbeat, and remember when we were all at take off. That was the best, seeing your children interact.

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