Brendon Bussy

Children’s Theater – Not Only for Children

Posted in Soundtracks, Theatre by Brendon Bussy on September 15, 2011

So the Out the Box festival is over. A huge selection of performances, but I managed to get a taste of some of the best, much of which was high class children’s theatre.

I’ve realised the challenge of children’s theatre – how do you keep a highly energetic and perceptive audience enthralled for the duration?

I saw The Sand Boy, a simple story – a boy on a beach fashions a boy out of sand who then comes to life, has many adventures (including an epic fight with a lobster), then falls for a mermaid. It sounds light and it was, however the story was a vehicle for a sensual feast utilising complex lighting, a dramatic and detailed instrumental score, not to speak of the smoke and bubbles (!). I was really impressed at Omar Alvarez’s skilful control of all aspects of the production, including of course, the puppet manipulation, an impressive demonstration of an Argentinian tradition of puppet theatre where the manipulator does everything on stage.

The Sand Boy with his Mermaid

Another highlight was Bye Moon presented by the Belgium based Pantalone company. At only 10mins long, many avoided it thinking it wouldn’t be worth the ticket fee. However it turned out to be an immersive and thoughtfully staged experience despite the short format.
Two vertically orientated flat screen tv’s were each used to tell a different part of the story of a small boy looking for the moon.  Intentionally (I assume) the screens were widely spaced, just wide enough for the viewer not to be able to see both at the same time, providing a more complex experience and encouraging reviewing (see neuroscientist David Eagleman on time lapse when we swivel our heads). A surround sound system provided ambient sounds (notably a frog) and played a plaintive string based soundtrack (you can listen to the entire soundtrack here). And a live violinist provided a grounding presence.

Bye Moon

I had a good chat with the presenter (who I believe was the soundtrack’s composer Filip Bral) and the violinist (Katrien De Bièvre) – they told me that the work was created about five years back.  I was impressed by the realisation that electronic media could be used to create a production with such a long life, when we are so inundated with new media.  The key in this case, a careful consideration towards staging which encourages multiple viewings.

Other notable experiences included The Ogreling (director Yvette Hardie) which featured a large adult actor playing a charming gap toothed ogre in a school uniform, the sporty Parisian Ubla Dubla Trubla street clowns playing with ice water on a chilly day on the Observatory common and Isangqa/Sirkelpad which presented a complex retelling of an old Afrikaans story – the only Afrikaans production I saw, the use of the language making me feel fondly proud (as director Ilka Louw was happy to be told).

Thembani Luzipho & Nonceba Constance Didi in The Ogreling

And a lot else that I sadly missed, or only caught glimpses of at the festival launch which included seeing world music musician Pedro Espi Sanchis in The Mermaid from Zanzibar (written by Lisa Espi) and Marvelous Mixtures, a retelling of Roald Dahl’s “George’s Marvellous Medicine” which featured two seriously sick hip hop chickens.

So, how to keep your junior audience happy? Well first get their parents there (they’ll bring their kids) and then ENTHRALL!

4 Responses

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  1. Chris Wildman said, on September 19, 2011 at 10:24 am

    So glad you’re also a possibillian ( as if it wasn’t obvious) would love to talk to you about children’s music sometime. Chris Wildman

  2. brendon said, on September 19, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Great – would love to!

    Possibillian – are you familiar with David Eagleman, who coined that term?

  3. Yvette Hardie said, on September 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    A thoughtful summary, Brendon… Thanks for these responses to the work. It was great having you and your noisemakers as part of the festival.

    • brendon said, on September 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      Thank you Yvette! I started out just writing about my involvement at the festival, then soon realised that there was a lot more to say…..

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