by guest writer Steven Strauss
New York’s Lincoln Center invited UK-based Oily Cart to be one of three theatres from outside the US to perform at the Big Umbrella Festival, the first of its kind dedicated to such audiences.
In addition to Oily Cart’s Light Show, the one-month festival includes other one-off events, symposiums, and professional development opportunities for artists, arts professionals, presenters, and audience members interested in expanding the theatrical spotlight on this shamefully under-served community.
Simply put, major theatres around the world should really be funding such festivals all the time. To find out more about the process of bringing the Big Umbrella Festival to life, we interviewed Peg Schuler-Armstrong, the Director of Programming and Production for Lincoln Center Education, the organizers of the festival.
by Laura Kressly
Kids are intuitive. They’re smart, observant and know a lot more about the world than adults think they do. Tim Crouch’s play where adults and children play each other and kids eventually run the show also proves that they aren’t that different from each other anyway. Whimsical design, innovative dramaturgical devices and an unwilling to patronise young people with obvious storytelling combine to create a marvellous and thoughtful piece of theatre for all ages.
by guest critic Hailey Bachrach
Ignace Cornelissen’s Henry the Fifth, which was at the Unicorn Theatre in 2015, remains one of my favourite versions of that play ever. Setting King Henry’s French wars in a sandbox, Cornelissen simplified without dumbing-down the central themes of Shakespeare’s play.
by guest critic Kudzanayi Chiwawa
Kim Noble, Pol Heyvaert, Jakob Ampe and the nine, young singer/songwriters they worked with describe this piece as part gig and part play, and it’s exactly that. The show unfolds as if in a radio station’s live broadcast, with a clearly confident cast carrying you through the unusual format, allowing the audience to simply enjoy it.
by guest critic Liam Rees
Birds of Paradise Theatre Company’s The Tin Soldier is a charming and inclusive alternative to the traditional pantomime. As a company specialising in making work with disabled people, it makes sense for the company to have chosen to adapt Hans Christian Andersen’s story as it’s one of the few children’s stories to feature a disabled protagonist.
Think of your favourite stories as a young child. What did they have in common? Adventure. Youth. Fantasy. Foreign lands. Probably at least one good fight. Stories like Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island and Peter Pan are still popular, and for good reason. They’re compelling, well told stories.
But as a proud killjoy feminist, returning to these childhood favourites as an adult has proved troublesome. Action to the Word’s fairly solid reinvention of Peter Pan for seven actor-musicians is a fun, inventive adventure story that stays close to the original.
Sami and his mum are preparing for her to go to Mars for years and years and years. Both obsessed with space, Sami’s proud of her but worried that he might never see her again. To help him come to terms with her imminent departure, mum buys him a book about Laika, the first dog to go to space.
You’re fast asleep in your bed, in a small English town. Then some mysterious noises outside wake you, and on looking out your window you discover a gang of pirates is trying to steal your family home. What do you do?
Ask to join them, of course!
What happens when two experimental performance artists join forces with a few kids to make a kids’ show? Utterly delightful, if messy, madness. 1990s Nickelodeon is a clear influence, as are fart jokes, poo, time bending and parallel universes. An attempt at education intrudes near the end, but otherwise the script is a joyful, jokey celebration of all things silly and gross. There are moments, particularly in the beginning, that are a touch too self-serving for a show pitched to children, but there’s plenty of slapsticky fun for adults and young people alike.
By guest critic Rebecca JS Nice
Short and sweet, this half hour lunchtime show feeds feisty and giggly kiddies with a banquet of characters performing a range of tricks. A bearded ring master charms a female acrobat snake out of a trunk, and two musicians run around in monkey and pyjama costumes as their underage audience scream and shout at them. Programmed for the Easter holiday, the work is a strong contender among the ever-growing popularity of children’s theatre in London. Particularly special is Jackson’s Lane support for circus, which enriches their programming and sets a precedent for accommodating circus in small theatres.