We’re all feeling the effects of uncertainty and isolation. Children doubly so. As well as experiencing anxiety in the present, many kids will find this Covid-19 era shapes or shadows their futures. For artists and theatre companies working in the children’s sectors, this is something new to grapple with.
“We forget sometimes that kids live in the same world as the rest of us,” said Rose Myers, artistic director of Adelaide’s youth-focused Windmill Theatre Company. “They’re very conscious of everything that’s happening – and right now, they’re very unsettled.”
Windmill at Home: ‘It’s important to keep a sense of lightness’
Like most theatre companies, Windmill is shifting its focus to digital in an attempt to connect with socially isolated young audiences.
The company has launched Windmill at Home, which presents an archive of shows online while developing a stream of new work inspired by life with Covid-19.
The latest project, Honey I’m Home, is a new animated series created by artists Chris Edser, Renate Henschke and Jonathon Oxlade that explores the possibilities to be found in isolation. The first episode airs today: an intricately homespun depiction of the changing of the seasons, made in paper, wood, clay, fabric and icing sugar. Subsequent episodes – all less than two minutes long – will be released fortnightly.
“My feeling is that we should be addressing issues arising from the pandemic, but my instinct is that we do it laterally rather than literally,” said Myers. “Theatre is play and it’s important to keep a sense of lightness. It’s our job to help support that, especially now.”
Find more about Windmill At Home here
Way out West: Western Sydney festival gets crafty online
The annual Way Out West (WOW) arts and crafts festival prides itself on drawing kids and their adults from across western Sydney to its repurposed power station precinct. This year, WOW Festival creative producer Claudia Chidiac has curated a downloadable WOW at Home package of multicultural storytelling, language games (how many languages can you say “hello!” in?), art projects and even a recipe for making slime, inspired by artist Sol LeWitt.
“We believe in the power of art and expression – these aren’t just activities, but a chance for children to really lead the way during what are very turbulent times,” Chidiac said. “Grown-ups need not worry either, there’s plenty of stuff for them to enjoy as well.”
Download the Way Out West at Home package here
Australian Theatre for Young People: your living room’s a stage
Antsy about being unable to attend a live theatre show? Why not stage your own at home?
Sydney’s Australian Theatre for Young People has commissioned 11 playwrights to write a diverse suite of five-minute scripts, each featuring from two to six parts for young people, the occasional adult and, in the case of comedy duo The Listies’ Lounge Room Lockdown, pets or stuffed toys.
Simply download the script that takes your fancy (they’re free) and go for it. Rehearse it, design the costumes, build a set if you like. Then capture the show on your phone and upload it to the link on the ATYP Home Theatre page. There are prizes and you have until July 17, so get a wriggle on.
Find out more about ATYP Home Theatre here
Audio plays, games and experiences: ‘Kids get completely lost in the story’
“Leo and Abbie aren’t ordinary kids, they’re Turners, a secret species that morphs from human to animal …”
That’s your jump-off point for The Turners, an immersive audio-guided experience created by Zoe Pepper and Gemma Pepper, aka Perth’s Sidepony Productions. Based on Mick Elliott’s series of books, this was created prior to the pandemic but it’s ideal for kids in iso – and what’s more, it asks for the kids to leave their phones in their pockets and be guided by their ears and their imaginations.
“I love seeing kids get completely lost in the story, like when they’re shouting at their walkie-talkie wristwatches drawn on with a texta,” said Zoe Pepper. “‘HQ, we need backup!’”
And if you remember what it was like to create landscapes from piled-up cushions and space ships from laundry baskets, you’ll enjoy the interactive, audio-guided experience designed by Threshold, for kids and their carers to enact at home.
Based in Central Victoria, Threshold’s Mountain Goat Mountain asks kids and adults to take an imaginative, audio-guided journey through underwater caves and over lava pits without leaving the living room. All you need is an audio device (computer, phone or tablet), a bed sheet, a piece of blank paper and your favourite pencils, pens or chunky textas.
While we’re talking audio experiences, older kids might enjoy Melbourne Theatre Company’s Audio Lab production of Henry James’s gothic chiller The Turn of the Screw, read by Laurence Boxhall, Marg Downey, Robert Menzies and Katherine Tonkin. It’s available from July 31.
Stream a video; get clever with cardboard
Perth theatre-makers The Last Great Hunt livestreamed Bad Baby Jean a few weeks ago, but it’s archived on the company’s YouTube channel and still a delight to watch, even without the accompanying adrenaline of a live shoot.
Paying affectionate handmade homage to silent movies with cardboard cut-outs, over-the-top acting, a hectic train heist plot and some clever software, this delightfully inventive flick might inspire your kids to get clever with cereal boxes, scissors, and their smartphones.
Meanwhile, Adelaide theatre company Slingsby is making its acclaimed work available online in an initiative called Slingsby by Request. For a small fee that goes to support artists, you can view the company’s Helpmann Award-winning adaptation of Erich Kastner’s classic Emil and the Detectives, which Slingsby distills into a marvellous yarn told by just two performers.
And last but not least: one of the most charming theatre shows for children produced in recent years, Ruby’s Wish can now be viewed online – and its themes are more relevant than ever.
Co-written by director Jo Turner and performers Holly Austin and Adriano Cappelletta, its focus is Ruby, a seriously ill child who has spent much of her life in hospital. We don’t know what illness she has, but we do know it’s serious. For every operation she undergoes, she gets a “bravery bead”. Ruby has 74 of them strung on a necklace.
Represented as a puppet whose scale changes depending on her mood, Ruby encounters the hospital’s beat-boxing clown doctor, Dot (Austin), who can’t help but say the wrong thing pretty much all the time.
Younger children will gravitate naturally to the relationship between Dot and Ruby but viewers of any age will find themselves chuckling over the meta-theatrical jokes while being quietly shepherded to the verge of tears. You can watch it free online as part of the Sydney Opera House’s digital season From Our House to Yours.
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