So far this week has been pretty tiring, although I’m actually enjoying it quite a lot.
On top of my usual Sunday session at the Grove Youth Theatre, I went along and did the Tuesday night session, too, as I’m unavailable this weekend as I’m away with Live Life Then Give Life for a weekend of planning and other fun stuff (more on that next week).
Working with the younger groups was certainly challenging, as they’re all from very different backgrounds to the kids who went to the MK Theatre Youth Theatre. But there’s still something energising about working with youngsters who still have that energy and vitality, not to mention still clinging on to their imaginations in the face of all their school teachers and (often) parents trying to drum it out of them.
There’s nothing sadder to me in modern society than how early children start to lose their imaginations. Many of us could (and do) jump to blame the whole thing on Xboxes, Wiis, PlayStations and all the rest, but in truth it’s just as much the fault of parents and teachers as it is the computer games and TV industries.
Children who are creative, who day-dream and enjoy their own little fantasy worlds are seen as being behind other children and somehow inferior. It is celebrated when a child can focus and concentrate on a Maths problem for half-an-hour, but derided if they spend the same half-hour lost in a world of their own creation.
Theatre is the one art form that can really help to encourage, develop and nuture an imagination. Not only in performing and “play-acting”, but also simply by being part of an audience. The magic of Theatre is often lost on the majority of the population now – that sense of amazement and wonder which casts a spell over young people seems to ebb away as we grow. At the pantomimes every year, the adults go along because they want to recapture a little bit of that spirit, but we all know that we only boo the baddie because we know that’s what we’re supposed to do. For the children, though, they put their whole heart and soul into it – they really mean it when they boo, it’s not simply customary.
It shouldn’t just be every Christmas that children can explore their theatrical imaginations though and it’s not just pantomimes that can engage them. The beauty of taking children to the theatre is that they are often the least critical audience who will take up a seat in any auditorium. If they see characters that they know and/or love and can engage with (not always in a physical/vocal sense), they get completely lost in the performance.
More than that, though, theatrical shows give children a chance to develop their imaginations as they can’t present everything that a child may see on TV. Take something like Noddy or Lazy Town Live – it’s impossible to recreate the look of the TV show, but you can recreate the feel of the show and it up to their imaginations to complete the illusion.
If you find yourself feeling cynical about the rubbish that’s churned out on TV (for old and young alike) or you see you child drifting into dream-less oblivion, pick yourselves up some tickets to go and see a show and even if you can’t bear the show, watch your little one’s face instead. I guarantee it’ll be a picture.
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