More thoughts from Liz

May 6, 2010

A huge thank you to Tash and Lizzie for their ponderings.  Isn’t it wonderful that we are discussing theatre for early years.  In so many minds in the UK, theatre is just somewhere the middle class visits – it is a building that programmes the latest smash hit musical with its leading lady cast on the BBC or a programme of work for children highlighting the current trend whether that be Bob The Builder, Thomas or whatever.  I suppose all has its place, and I must admit to having enjoyed the old black and white movies on a wet Saturday afternoon when Judy Garland and Micky Rooney fixed up the old barn, put up a stage and raised money for the orphanage with the famous line “Hey Lets Put On A Show.”  (Here I go again, childhood memories).  Once again I apologise for flitting from one subject to another, but I tend to type as I think. 

I will leave those childhood memories for this morning as I am pondering “play.” I believe that the root of all theatre is “play.”  As a deviser, a huge part of my creative process is through play.  I love it when we have a long devising period when we can bring ourselves to a room with random objects, fabrics, books, poems, music, loads of gaffer tape and just play.  The problem is when so much play creates a huge amount of material and we are only creating an hour long piece – then we have to be generous and “throw the dead wood away.” (Although Ido believe an idea is a gift and will never be thrown away), it will be used one day!   But, as Lizzie quite rightly said,  creating simple, beautiful theatre for little ones  is incredibly difficult and hard work. 

Play – theatre is “play.”  I agree with you Tash.  Just recently I have been delivering the Imaginary Leaps workshop – Mrs Teapot’s transformational objects.  During one session in a Sure Start centre in Rochdale, a child’s imagination made me cry (after the session in the van of course).  After playing with household objects for a while with a group of around 8 early years, I introduced “Mrs Teapot.”  a lovely round silver teapot with large googly eyes in just the right position and a glamorous tea-towel on her head.  The little ones love her.  I began manipulating her, talking to each child in turn.  One little boy gave Mrs Teapot more than the normal amount of attention (around 5 minutes is usual, then they begin to create their own puppets out of the household objects). But this little boy formed a relationship with Mrs Teapot.  He kept asking for “mummy,”  – I thought he was getting fretful and asking for his own mummy.  But no, he believed that Mrs Teapot was “mummy.”  We began to play.  He asked “mummy” if they could go shopping. Off we went.  We “bought” bananas, tomatoes, potatoes from the “shop.”  Then we  went home and had a cup of tea and some cakes, made a stew and had a nap.  Just like the description Tash gave in her blog about children waking their parents – he had great delight in continually waking Mrs Teapot from her sleep. This went on for ages!  The rest of the group were happily creating puppets with their early years practitioners. The child would not let “mummy” go.  So, we continued playing out his story, until a very old battered teapot was given googly eyes and another glamorous tea-towel.  He immediately turned round, saw the pot and began called her “nanny.”  Oh my word, the child was associating the older pot with his grand mother.  He was delighted and full of delight for an hour!  During a discussion after the workshop the early years practitioner said that the child was normally withdrawn, rarely spoke, didn’t really mix with the other children and was very shy. When it was time for me to go, I was worried that he had become attached to “mummy” and “nanny.”  NO – its just “play.”  He was very happy to remove all googly eyes and tea towels and pop the teapots back in the big bag for next time. I am now itching to create a piece of theatre using several teapots, but need to chat to Rachel when she returns.

For me, theatre and play go hand in hand and I love looking after my 2 grand children (aged just 3 and 16 months).  Oliver’s (aged 3) favourite book at the moment is a Dutch wordless book called The yellow Balloon.

Description: This wordless picture book traces the journey of a rogue balloon as it is carried along from scene to scene. Children are challenged to find the tiny balloon, as well as other objects, in action-filled pictures. The aerial views are panoramic and the colours are breathtaking. Depicting many different parts of the world and many unique landscapes, the illustrations are imaginative and elaborate, and brimming with hundreds of captivating miniature details. With the artwork providing a springboard, opportunities for picture-inspired storytelling are unlimited. This stunning offering has broad appeal.”
     —School Library 

It is well worth a look.  Oliver takes an age to get through the book as he discovers more and more characters and strange settings!

I am off now to a Greek Island for 3 weeks, but I am taking lots of reading matter and will probably ponder on creating new work for children and “play” in my head!

See you soon,



One comment

  1. Thanks Liz, for a great update about your thoughts on play and ey theatre, and a link to your continous creative work with Imaginary Leaps. I am so please you were able to go to Villach and extend your learning experience with Dandelionroar and the team. I will link this blog update into Imaginary Leaps, thanks again,

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