I once wrote a blog on the importance of introducing theatre to the young generation. I have taken my seven year old daughter to a variety of West End shows and from that very first visit she developed an instantaneous love of it. She has a creative mind and her ability to both empathise and look at things more deeply than perhaps other children her age is something I partly attribute to her experiences within the world of theatre – she often behaves better than other audience members four or five times her age.
Theatre can be a very positive influence in a child’s life and the earlier they are exposed to it the better in my opinion. For most West End shows though, children have to be a minimum of five years old to attend. It’s understandable why as very young children can be a disruption to other theatre goers, but where does this leave them? There really aren’t very many opportunities for the under-fives with theatre – which is why the new commission given to Fevered Sleep by Small Wonders is very good news for this age group.
Small Wonders is a new commission consortium consisting of seven of the leading arts festivals in the UK. In a scheme which is being funded by the Arts Council England (ACE) and the festival partners, they looked for a theatre company which could ‘create fantastic, challenging and exceptional work for the under-5s, with the aim of addressing the gap in outdoor arts provision for this age group.’ For this they drew up a shortlist of potential companies and Fevered Sleep were the company they chose, after being impressed with the distinctive and visionary approach they took with the issued brief. Kate Hazel, Director of Alchemy Productions who manage Small Wonders, said of offering the commission to Fevered Sleep, “We’re delighted to have one of the UK’s leading companies on board. I’m sure they will be able to produce something that’s beautiful and imaginative for our youngest audiences to enjoy.”
It was back in 1996 that David Harradine and Samantha Butler founded Fevered Sleep, which is currently an associate company of the Young Vic in London. They create work for both adults and children alike, mostly through the forms of performance, installation and publication, all of which is shown nationally and internationally. Their new commission from Small Wonders will see them creating an innovative new outdoor work for the under-fives, which will then go on to tour participating festivals from May this year. Hazel explains that the aim of this performance is to provide this young age group with an exciting theatre experience, adding that, “very often small siblings tag along to an outdoor arts event but don’t really engage as they’re too young. By offering this new dimension we can open up lots of new opportunities for learning and shared experience for the very youngest of our audiences.”
Fevered Sleep will design this festival work through use of an extensive research and development process, which involves the observation and exploration of 3-4 year olds at play in an outside environment. They also plan to include the children in the development of the performance. Co-founder David Harradine shares that they already have an idea of the type of performance they hope to create:
“We’re going to make a piece for very small people which explores really big ideas – like patterns of order and chaos in the universe. We’ll create something for children to watch and get involved in – a movement piece that will make visible the machinations of the largest and smallest things in the universe. The piece will be striking and playful, carefully choreographed yet anarchic, unexpected and inviting.”
It is never too early to introduce children to the rich and inspiring world of live performance. As with anything in life, the sooner they start the deeper the impact it will make on their lives, which can only serve to be enriched by it. It’s all too easy to sit your children down in front of the television or placate them with computer games – but while these activities are sure to ease that inevitable boredom, these acts of substitute parenting will only act as a detrimental influence. The importance of family is being drummed into us all more and more and it’s something I completely agree with. Positive, quality family time results in happy, well-rounded children and if we want to prevent the next generation turning out to be a bunch of socially awkward, technology-reliant individuals, then schemes such as this are a great step forward.
If you have the opportunity to take your young child/children to any of the performances, I’d recommend you take it. Below is a list of all the participating festivals Fevered Sleep’s under-fives piece will be shown at:
Mintfest, Kendal, Cumbria
Activate Performing Arts, Dorset
Norfolk and Norwich Festival
Hat Fair, Winchester
IF: Milton Keynes International Festival
3 Foot People Festival, Chelmsford (Chelmsford Borough Council)
Fuse Medway Festival
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Monday 20th February 2012