Svetlana McMahon spent the weekend at the 2Turvenhoog festival in Almere.
This was my first time seeing work for very young audiences with my (still fresh) change of hat from ‘artist’ to ‘researcher’. My PhD focus is on audience experience, particularly how little children and their adults engage with a show together. So it was the spectators as much as the spectated that I was watching and it was great to see some different forms and experiences of engagement on offer. The ongoing questions of how much interaction is invited and what kind of response is encouraged were all at play and I was glad to have just enough German to understand the occasional bursts of commentary from verbal children. There was also a bit of in-audience drama that was pretty stressful and embarrassing for those involved but super juicy for me as a nosy observer!
In three days I saw six performances and attended a talk on early years performance in Hong Kong. One highlight for me was Bubbles by the host theatre company, Theater o.N. A musical journey using water dropping, resonating and amplifying sounds in fishbowls of water of various sizes. Also the after-show play session for Diorama by Hanafubuki was extensive and well considered. What do you do when children want to handle your delicate props? Make big sturdy versions of said props that they can play with freely.
I still get quite excited meeting people in person again and massively appreciated the opportunities to talk with artists, producers, and theatre pedagogues who were either connected to performances or there as delegates, also seeing work. Chatting with a ‘Kita’ (nursery) manager who had brought a group to a show, she said how they tried to choose performances that aligned with their values, that represented diversity for example. It struck me how, when you are caring for children in a city that offers year-round choice in theatre for the very young, this kind of discernment becomes possible. The more performances for early years we see the more we are able to find our own path and preferences amongst the possibilities. This applies to children too.
An inspirational and encouraging trip!