Birmingham Stage Company

Theatre is a strange business

13 November 2005

Theatre is a strange business. I get so many questions about what we're doing and why we're doing it that the blog seemed the perfect way to provide the answers. So here I am three days before we open our production of KENSUKE'S KINGDOM. The real challenge with theatre for children is that they are merciless. If children are bored they don't follow theatrical convention and read the programme or gaze up at the ceiling or quietly fall asleep. If children are bored, they talk. Or go to the loo. Or throw sweets. This seems an eminently proper way of expressing boredom in a theatre. I would encourage everyone attending West End shows, productions at the RSC or their  local theatre to follow their child's example. If ever you should find yourself wishing you were strolling naked around the Antarctic rather than watching the particular show you've mistakenly tumbled into, make it known to everyone involved: talk, throw sweets, ring your friends on your mobile, get up and stretch your legs. It is surely the correct response to boredom. So every time we produce a children's show, I sit anxiously at the back of the stalls, listening for any moment when the children could start to fidget. At the first sign of impending distraction, we immediately address the scene in question to ensure it keeps their attention. Hopefully by the end of the first week we have eradicated any moments where our drama loses tension. It is terrifying but rewarding. Success means we can relax as the coaches pull up outside the theatre, knowing that thousands of children will be safe in our dramatic hands. But there are three days to go and, as always, I have no way of knowing if this time we will succeed. Time will tell.

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