One of my favourite periods here at Greenwich Theatre is the school holidays. It is so important, at a time when entertainment is becoming ever more dominated by and delivered via small screens, that people still come together to share stories and live experiences, and that matters for children most of all. With streaming, on-demand and catch-up services, people don’t even watch the same television programmes at the same time any more. The old experience of coming to school or work on a Monday and discussing the TV or radio shows that were aired over the weekend is a thing of the past. Broad access to culture is a brilliant thing, but only if it complements live performance, not replaces it.
Therefore, every school holiday we present a mixed programme of shows for families, so that the experience of seeing a story unfold or experiencing a cultural event can be shared. This half-term is no different.
The programme launches on Sunday 16 February with a tale by Michael Morpurgo, one of the biggest names in children’s literature. Morpurgo is best known for War Horse and Private Peaceful, but his work for younger children is equally memorable so this season we welcome Skewbald Theatre with their version of Mimi and the Mountain Dragon. Set high up in the snowy mountains of Switzerland, the story follows Mimi as she discovers a baby dragon asleep in the woodshed and has to brave the journey to the Dragon’s castle to return it to its home. Packed with music, live performance and detailed puppetry the acclaimed show is perfect for ages 3+.
Another major name in children’s literature is also set to be celebrated when Chiff Chaff Theatre brings Jill Murphy’s Peace At Last and Whatever Next to the theatre studio. Murphy’s gentle tales for younger children follow a daddy bear who can’t find a place to sleep, and a baby bear who wants to fly to the moon. The shows, which run at just 40 minutes for the pair, are a perfect theatre introduction for the very young.
If major names in modern children’s literature make up part of the programme, String Theatre’s The Crow’s Tale harks right back to Native American legend, telling the story of the colourful crow who sets off to fly to the sun one winter to ask for warmth for the other animals.
The animal world will also be celebrated in song with John Hinton’s Ensonglopedia of Animals – a show built around twenty-six songs (including those hard letters at the end!) all about extraordinary echinoderms, distressed damselflies, curious corals, batty birds, amazing arachnids and more.
For something completely different, we are proud to present How Does This Politics Thing Work Then? Using stand-up comedy for ages 7+ the show will explain what an election is (by actually staging one for the audience), demonstrate the purpose of democracy, and give children a glimpse of just why mum and dad have been so angry (or happy) with everyone on the TV lately!
The week is rounded off by Action Transport Theatre who come to Greenwich with Adrift, a show about two children in a boat, laughing, arguing, dreaming – and hoping to find a land which will be happy and safe. Developed in partnership with a primary school, Adrift introduces children to ideas about migration. Produced with physical theatre performers from around the world, Adrift will entertain the whole family and leave children a little bit closer to understanding why people move around the globe.
When children grow up, I am convinced that it is not the films that they watched on repeat that they will remember – it is the live performances that they saw once with their families or friends, that they talked about on the way home and the next day, that sowed the seeds of new ideas in their minds. Whether audiences choose to see a classic tale like Mimi and the Mountain Dragon, a legend brought to life like The Crow’s Tale, or a show to unpick some of what’s happening in the world like Adrift or the Politics show, a trip to the theatre is an investment in a memory that a child will retain for years to come.
For the full programme and to book tickets, visit www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk or call 020 8858 7755