This session focused on Theatre for Young Audiences, facilitated by Dominic Hingorani.
At the beginning of the session, to stabilise our understanding of the subcategory of Theatre for Young Audiences (TFYA), we looked at the differences and similarities between theatre in education and theatre for young audiences. This helped us better understand the topic.
Theatre in Education (TIE):
- Aimed for young audiences in education, with a basis to teach or deliver an agenda or message.
- Largely deals with serious topics, including drugs, and crime.
- It is performed for categorised groups of young people, for example, 2-4 year olds, 5-8 year olds, etc.
- It is used to explore
- Both TIE and TYFA have arbitrary categories to interrogate or investigate.
Theatre for Young Audiences:
- Contains various reasons for performance, for example, it could be performed simply for entertainment, or to educate.
- Has a more open purpose, rather than TIE, which is to educate.
- Young people actively get involved and are a part of the process of TFYA, to create and devise. Young people are able to make choices and decisions.
- TFYA can be used to engage young people with theatre and performance.
What would we see in shows for young people?
We discussed our ideas or knowledge of TFYA. This question allows us to draw upon our own experiences as young people, and also what we might expect young people of other ages to engage with.
As a class, we came up with the following ideas:
- Performances that use a great amount of characterisation, like Pantomime, are visually interesting, and provide entertainment. This could be engaging for young audiences, who largely enjoy being entertained.
- Expanding on the last point, the performance might require to be visually appealing, as this is stimulating for young audiences, especially young children who enjoy bright colours or an interesting setting.
- Interactivity is a successful way to attract the audience’s attention. This allows the audience to feel involved in the piece, and helps keep the young people engaged and intimate.
- Relatable or understandable content helps the young audience stay in line with the performance and its message. If it is something the audience understand, it gives them room to feel invited and involved. The performance directly references their understanding.
- A safe environment is important. For a lot of young people, a performance could be their first experience of theatre; therefore a safe environment ensures that the young people are not alienated by the experience.
- The voice and verbal communication of different kinds, including speech, singing, spoken word, etc., engages and is stimulating as it adds multiple dimensions to the performance.
- Concluding the above points, the performance needs to be engaging. This will keep the attention of the young audience, and it will also make it easier for them to understand and intake the intended message(s) of the performance.
Some questions raised during this discussion are:
- How can we make it more engaging?
- Regarding ethics, what do we show?
- What do the audience take away from the performance?
- What happens after the show, how is the young audience affected?
- How do we bring intellect, truth and dignity to a younger audience? As Hingorani explains, this question highlights that there is a risk that we hide or conceal details from young people, but we should aim to be able to bring the truth, similar to theatre directed at adults, in a safe way. How, in this way, can we bring awareness of issues to a younger audience?
In this activity, Hingorani provided the class with pieces of paper. The class were given very few rules, and were encouraged to experiment and play with the tools we were given, in order to devise and create different things.
Firstly, we were instructed to rip the paper. As the class began to rip the paper, different ideas started to emerge from different participants.
Secondly, Hingorani said that we could now fold the paper as well as rip it. As different things and games developed, we looked at the different creations. One participant created a farm hosting snakes, another created a hat.
Finally, we were allowed to scrunch the paper. From this ability, I created a shield with balls made of scrunched up paper. The balls, in my game, are thrown, and the shield is used to avoid being hit by the paper balls.
This activity presented one of the ways young people can improvise and devise, and get involved in the process of creating a performance or creation. It is a simple activity, which provides an open opportunity for the exploration of he imagination, and for a wide range of ideas to be experimented with. The activity is not clouded by too much information and instruction, and is instead displayed as a ‘game’. In my experience, I found that with bits of paper and a few ways to experiment with the paper that I could create anything. I felt free of being plagued by rules and limits. The activity allowed me to experiment with my imagination, and to create absolutely anything I wanted to. It is enjoyable and engaging. This is impactful for young audiences, who may get bored easily and need constant stimulation. It is also efficient, as not many tools are required to participate in the exercise.
A criticism that I present is that since the activity is very open ended, it could be difficult to begin creating. To counter this, the participants could be given a stimulus to begin with, and then their creations could evolve in different directions from there.
Case Study: The Forest by Fevered Sleep (2009)
The Forest was a performance created by Fevered Sleep for an audience demographic around the age of 6 years old. The performance was set in a forest-like setting with tall tree trunks and worked around a relatable non-linear narrative of small occurrences, e.g. calling for or finding your friend, or playing with leaves. After watching the video of the case study, we discussed the key elements that make it effective:
- The performance is simple to follow. It uses small sequences of happenings of different activities or everyday occurrences.
- It is playful, fun and enjoyable to watch. The audience are watching the performers play with objects, and create movement and dance. It is interesting to watch and is visually stimulating.
- The performance makes use of natural objects, like nuts or leaves, to allow the children to play with at the end. The nuts are also dropped at the end, which makes a loud sound as they hit the floor. This is exciting for the young audience as evident by the loud gasping and excitement. This shows that the performance and this aspect were appealing.
- The use of music helps engage the young audience, as it further supports the narrative and transmits emotion. The sound of music allows the children to draw upon the motion and feel of the scene, like tension, etc.
- The simple set encourages the young audience’s use of imagination. They are able to fill in the space and create their own version of the story presented. The setting can provide various ideas, as it is conflicting. It can deliver various interpretations. An example is that for children a forest could be a setting that is scary, a place where you get lost in, or it could be a forest from a fairy tale with mythical creatures.
This becomes collaborative, as Hingorani stated, this aspect on behalf of the performers becomes “they’ll make the rest up with us.”
Puppets with Coats
In the final activity, Hingorani asked us to bring our coats to the circle. As we bought our coats, he asked us to place it on the floor and to grab on arm of the coat. This became our puppet.
As we created our puppet, Hingorani asked that we believe in its existence as a living puppet. In order to do this, we were able to give the puppet characterisation. I gave my puppet the characterisation of being cautious and shy, but observant and knowledgeable, like a scholar from different portions of history. This was how I imagined the puppet, since my coat was heavy; it caused my puppet to have slow, steady movements. This, I felt, gave my puppet a “wise, old man” connotation. To add to this connotation, the puppet avoided contact with others, and looked around cautiously with its head.
This activity, again, is stimulating for young people since it is open for the imagination to be activated, and provides a variety of ideas. The young people are in control of their puppet and can shape the puppet how they feel. This is important as young people need to feel their contribution and that they can create their own work. This gives them freedom, and can be more rewarding and efficient at teaching skills than being told what to do, which can block the imagination.