A trip to the theatre can create a life-long interest in a particular topic

BY JAMES HADDRELL

With a record-breaking pantomime season behind us and the spring season well underway, I am now working on finalising the programme for the rest of the year – and one of the most important building blocks of any annual programme here is always the selection of family theatre on offer

The programme will always feature a range of family shows of different types and for different age groups. But one area that I have been particularly keen to explore this year is political theatre – productions that challenge children to engage with and form opinions about political or social issues that affect the world around them.

As an example, later this season, we are set to present a special performance of Me And My Bee. The show is described by Josie Dale-Jones, one of the show’s creators, as “a political party disguised as a  show.”

10.09.17 – Grow Wild Riverfront Takeover, Riverfront Theatre, Newport –

It encourages adults and children to recognise the risk to our planet caused by the ever-increasing threat to the survival of bees.

Albert Einstein said “That without the bees, humans have four years left to live. We rely on bees to pollinate one third of the crops we use as food.”

We also welcome The Bone Ensemble this season with their show, Where’s My Igloo Gone, a magical, interactive performance about a young Eskimo girl and the impact of global warming.

After the performance, the company will be running an audience Q&A about the issues in the show. For that we have a panel including a professor of hydrology from the University of Birmingham and an associate professor of Hydroinformatics from the University of Nottingham.

This will be a scientifically-based discussion about the issues surrounding global warming for the children in the audience, tailored to those children but based on absolutely contemporary scientific study.

While these kind of post-show discussions are fairly common with adult shows they are rare with
family theatre.

But I see no reason why children will be any less able to engage with these issues.

Children are not daft. They’re younger versions of us – they have less experience of the world but they are just as keen to interrogate ideas and formulate opinions and that is something that should be encouraged in every part of their development, not just at school.

A trip to the theatre can create a life-long interest in a particular topic, and I am sure that while children seeing these two shows will certainly be hugely entertained, they will also come away energised and excited about two issues of major importance to our future.

“Kids are smart” said Josie. “They don’t need patronising. If you have a good show, young people will be just as engaged as older people.”

The last 20 years has seen the most depressing slump in political engagement among young adults, and giving children the power to own an opinion about something, to have the process of opinion making validated, to understand that opinions followed by actions can change the world – these are all invaluable experiences in developing a politically minded population for the future.

James Haddrell is the artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre.

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