Thursday, 25 March 2010

how to sprout a pea.

I'm touring the latest incarnation of our family show PEA with my theatre company again - our website's over here if you want to check it out.

I'm getting fonder and fonder of this show. I had an idea about a show aaaaaages ago, a shaky line-drawing of a thought based on a book and a song, and the show that we made didn't quite fit that original idea, which definitely made me struggle a bit. That's just the reality of collaborating with other people though, and I definitely value that more than dreaming up ideas by myself - without the rest of the company this little pea shoot would never have seen the light of day. Weighing me down as well, however, was the fact that I somehow didn't feel "qualified" or even particularly good at making family theatre (I like that term better than children's theatre - I want to make shows that adults are happy to watch too).

PEA is turning more into the show that I originally hoped we'd make. It's loosely framed around the fairy story of The Princess and the Pea, but really it's about two sisters who at first only have each other; it's about the importance of the family you're born with, sure, but also the equally important family that you find on your journey through the world.

And I'm growing in confidence about making theatre for young people. We've been highly fortunate to be taken under the wing of the Night Out/Noson Allan scheme run by the Arts Council Wales, which encourages communities to book theatre shows by taking away the financial risk involved. This has given us the chance to take our original rough draft of a show and build upon it. More importantly, it means we've been performing in areas where theatre is not a regular part of day-to-day community life. In fact, we might be some of these children's first experience of theatre. Ever. There's a thought to make me pause.

So we have experiences like last night, when we performed in a school in which the event was also organised by a group of "young promoters": students guided through the mechanics of promoting and producing a night out at the theatre. They had enthusiasm in spadefuls. It was overwhelming. We were struggling to load into the school hall, set up, rehearse some bits that appear to change with every new space we encounter AND run a cue-to-cue. These things seemed very important to us. But actually our little show was a tiny piece of a much bigger event, which was an experience that was giving these young people a sense of personal agency, control and ownership. For that, I'll happily endure again what was perhaps the most chaotic pre-show I've ever experienced. It was more rock concert than evening at the theatre, with audience energy at peak levels and appreciation - when we earned it - granted at high volume. And that, I think, is the way it should be.

And look: these kids knew their stuff, there were even backstage security passes AND a post-show photo call. We've arrived.

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