Thursday, 4 September 2008

Theatre for the Very Young

Just back from a couple of weeks in St Andrew's working on a piece of theatre/art collaboration for toddlers. Since the 70's there has been a growing European movement of artists and early years practitioners interested in developing theatre for very young children. Charlotte Fallon of Theatre de la Guimbarde in Belgium has developed exquisite work at the same time lobbying for more early years access to theatre and creative arts. Although she doesn't consider herself an artist - she thinks of her work as a bridge that will encourage young children and their parents to access 'art' - her work is visually, materially and performatively captivating for babies and toddlers and their parents. La Barracca in Bologna develops work for children in it's dedicated theatre, a geographical and pedagogic neighbour to the Reggio Emilia nursery schools. Polka Children's Theatre and Oily Cart in London are also part of this movement.

In Scotland , we are very fortunate to have Imaginate, which presents the annual children's theatre festival and promotes and develops performing arts for children and young people throughout the year. Of the numerous children's theatre production companies based in Scotland, Star Catchers which emerged out of North Edinburgh Arts Centre is dedicated to producing work for the very young.

I am very lucky to be associated with this bunch of people. There is no equivalent movement in the Visual Arts. Maybe this is because theatre people tend to be more outgoing and extrovert by nature. Also, in the main, the work is more collaborative and group based, whereas visual artists often work alone. In general I sometimes wonder why there are theatre productions, books, films, television, computer games for children, but very little visual art dedicated to children. Infact most exhibitions that might appeal to children have to be covered in signs saying 'do not touch', 'children must be under control of parents at all times' and the like.

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