Following my previous blog post about Cosmopot it seems sensible to start this weeks blog by writing about my experience on Friday when I visited Renfrew Town Hall to see the production during its tour.
Seeing the teapot filled with young people was truly exciting, they were mesmerised, their imaginations truly captured by the space itself and the well considered technical design that made it so versatile and transformative.
The performers had developed a real sense of confidence and ease in the work and navigated the young peoples responses beautifully. For example at one point a young boy stood up and entered the middle of the space to help a character that had fallen down. This interruption didn’t feel distracting or wrong because of how prepared the performers were to lead him back to his seat without changing the energy of the space or the flow of the performance.
One creative decision that did perhaps affect the space in a less positive way was the use of glow sticks. These were given to all audience members before they entered the teapot, an idea borne out of a desire to make a show that was multi sensory and the idea of how beautiful they look in the tent in different lighting states, however they had no real relevance to the story, no link or use that made them feel necessary and ultimately the young people became very distracted by them, fiddling with them, building them into hats and necklaces as the show was happening and the young people that were not distracted by their own glowsticks were distracted during the work by staring at the other children who were fidgeting and building things and dropping their glowsticks into the performance space in the middle. This issue was clear in the dress rehearsal but the glowsticks were not cut and their use went ahead in the final tour, I feel there is something to learn here in not being precious about material. As an artist your work can only develop if you’re willing to lose things, even ideas that are beautiful and exciting will detract from the piece if they just aren’t relevant or right for it.
In all the piece did some really interesting things, I was particularly interested in how strong of an emotional response the story evoked from the young people, the conversations that began to happen immediately afterwards between the young people and the adults that had come with them were beautiful and it was clear that the young people were really grasping the themes of the work. The impact of this work I think will be significant to the young people that see it, especially with it touring in Renfrewshire and drawing in an audience that might otherwise not get the chance to engage with theatre of this quality. A particular quote I read on Thursday really resonated with me as I left Fridays performance.
“Children need to go to the theatre as much as they need to run about in the fresh air. They need to hear real music played by real musicians on real instruments as much as they need food and drink. They need to read and listen to proper stories as much as they need to be loved and cared for.
The difficulty with persuading grown-up people about this is that if you deprive children of shelter and kindness and food and drink and exercise, they die visibly; whereas if you deprive them of art and music and story and theatre, they perish on the inside, and it doesn’t show.”
Philip Pullman, writer
The Imaginate Office
Thursday was my first day in the Imaginate office in Edinburgh. I immediately fell in love with the space, its a room full of natural light with its high ceilings and a wonderful friendly supportive team constantly offering cups of tea. The people are all really passionate about their jobs and really believe in the larger importance of Imaginates work.
I had a great chat with Fiona Ferguson – Creative Development Director where we spoke some more about my placement and my interests and organised some dates and opportunities i’m really excited for. This includes working with the team putting the ‘Scratch That!’event together, visiting Accelerator artist Pete Lannon whilst his new work FEELS is in development, opportunities to sit down with various members of the team individually, sitting in on the development week of a new commission, attending the Punchdrunk CLPL day, working alongside Rona Macdonald on the production week of Fas, working on the practical side of facilitating and producing the Ideas Exchange event, as well as lots of opportunities to pitch in on whatever task is happening in the office and dedicated time set aside to research and consider my enquiry.
We spoke a bit about my intention to compile a sort of knowledge database, a collection of research and contacts and examples and interviews and experiences that can really underpin my understanding of the sector of children’s theatre, its importance and the place I might take within it. The conversation that followed was an interesting look at the what drives Fiona, it really showed a wealth of knowledge and experience. Parts of this conversation I’ve noted, some points because the ideas really resonated with me and others because they captured my interest and are things i’d like to research further and learn more about. These notes form the beginning of the knowledge database which will eventually be uploaded to this blog.