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Interview with Sarah Argent – Writer and Director

My Brother, My Sister and Me. Credit Ellie Kurttz
My Brother, My Sister and Me. Credit Ellie Kurttz

My Brother, My Sister and Me, A Polka Theatre Production, is at the Polka Theatre from 18th October to 11th February 2018.

With a new baby in the family, a little sister has to move in with her big brother. This playful new show from the creators of Shake Rattle and Roll and Grandad, Me… and Teddy Too! is based on Sarah Argent’s conversations with young children about their own sibling relationships.

Writer and Director Sarah Argent answers a few questions about My Brother, My Sister and Me:

Q: Can you tell us about My Brother, My Sister and Me?
Sarah: My Brother, My Sister and Me is a new play for 2-5 years olds and their grown-ups and tells the story of a little sister who is moving into her big brother’s bedroom as the baby is moving out of their parents’ bedroom and into hers. Sister is regarding this new adventure with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, Brother (along with his trusty confidant, Gecko) is simply regarding her invasion of his space as an irritation – especially as she is bringing with her a large collection of hats. But, during the course of the 45-minute play, he realises that sharing a room with her can be extremely exciting as they play all sorts of games – pirates in shark-infested waters, running races, snow wolves, and being spaghetti; make up all sorts of songs; and get up to all sorts of mischief – especially after lights out.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the story?
Sarah: Polka Theatre approached me with the idea of creating a piece about siblings. Jo Belloli, Associate Producer Early Years, and I then visited a nursery in Roehampton and a primary school in Merton and asked children to draw us pictures of and tell us stories about their siblings (or cousins or friends if they were only children). These stories were hilarious, moving, quirky, and very enlightening. Many of them featured sharing rooms and/or bunk beds. So, we’ve made a play from these stories with almost all the dialogue in the play being lifted verbatim from their stories – many of the children’s turns of phrase are very funny.

Q: What are the benefits and drawbacks of writing and directing a production?
Sarah: The benefit of writing and directing is that all elements of a production are being conceived at the same time. Moment by moment, we are looking for the best means of telling the story – the music, or a visual image, or a sound effect, or a line of text. The story is being told visually and musically as well as through the words spoken. We hope that the play is rather like a children’s picture book in 3-D.
It also means that, with my director head on, if I feel that something isn’t working, we can immediately cut it without having to enter into a conversation with the writer. The drawbacks are the loneliness – when I work with a writer there is someone else with whom to share the creative process.

Q: How do you make a stage production entertaining and captivating for the youngest audience?
Sarah: Having now written and directed almost 20 productions for very young children, I hope I know what makes them laugh and also what will engage them. The story is firmly rooted in a world that children know, but will also be full of surprises. Our aim is that My Brother, My Sister and Me will have children giggling and sitting wide-eyed with awe and wonder in equal measure. We also hope that they will identify with the characters and their situations. I believe that most young children are very emotionally intelligent – they spend every day gauging the emotions of those around them by observing their body language and facial expressions and tone of voice, so we won’t avoid exploring the truthful emotions siblings might feel when sharing a room for the first time, but we’re very conscious of not startling or scaring our young audience many of whom will be visiting the theatre for the first time.

Q: You have productions that been staged around the world – how do you cross the language barrier?
Sarah: Yes, I’ve been very fortunate to have had productions in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, India, Jordan, and South Korea. Sometimes the actors have learned the piece in the local language. Sometimes a local performer has been on-stage as a kind of storyteller translating certain more wordy sections of the text, but, given that many of the audiences for whom I’ve originally created productions have included many children with English as an additional language, I always hope that the story is clear from the body language and facial expressions of the characters and we often talk about how the set and the lighting and the props help to tell the story.

Q: Why should adults and children get along to see My Brother, My Sister and Me?
Sarah: It takes place in the cosy intimate Adventure Theatre at Polka, where the audience sits on a gorgeous comfy carpet or on cushioned seats up close to the stage, looking straight into Brother’s (now Brother’s and Sister’s) beautiful bedroom.
The play is very funny. It’s full of wintry magic, midnight feasts, and games. Adults with siblings will be taken back to their own childhoods, parents will recognise their children’s behaviour in the antics of the on-stage siblings, and children will recognise their relationships with their brothers and sisters or cousins or friends, and it features very catchy tunes about siblings and a gecko!

Sarah Argent is an award-winning writer and director specialising in theatre for the very young. Since 2001, she has been an associate of Cardiff -based Theatr Iolo. Her productions for the company have been performed across the UK and in Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, India and South Korea. She has also created productions for Unicorn Theatre, Theatre Hullabaloo, the National Theatre, Welsh National Opera, Barnstorm Theatre (Kilkenny), Sherman Cymru, Tam Tam Theatre, M6 Theatre, Clwyd Theatr Cymru and Compagnia Frec a Frec (Barcelona). She is delighted to be back at Polka after the success of Shake, Rattle and Roll and Grandad, Me …. & Teddy Too in 2014.

“It is the most impressive lighting of a children’s theatre show that I have ever seen.”
Review of My Brother, My Sister and Me

A Polka Theatre Production
My Brother, My Sister and Me
CAST: Leona Allen and Craig Gazey

CREATIVES
Sarah Argent Writer and Director
Katie Lias Designer
Aaron J. Dootson Lighting Designer
Greg Hall Composer

Wed 18th Oct 2017 to Sun 11th Feb 2018. For ages 2 -5
Written and directed by Sarah Argent
Designed by Katie Lias
Lighting Design by Aaron Dootson
https://polkatheatre.com/

Author

  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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