Our Creative Programme Producer for Theatre Lewis Mullins shares the joy of young people engaged in theatre in his blog post about Stuff and Nonsense working with Norwood School.
It is remarkable to see a group of young people enter a venue with such ease and calm. The partnership between Norwood School and The Point has blossomed in recent years and this sense of belonging shines through their pupils. However, the sheer joy of stepping onto a stage in a theatre still feels like a secretive experience that they are lucky enough to have.
This week Niki McCreton, artistic director of children’s theatre company Stuff and Nonsense took 90 pupils from Norwood School on a whirlwind workshop through the wonders of creating a new piece of theatre. In preparation for their new Christmas production Puppet Panto the company are working with Norwood School to discover exactly what inspires young people to watch a show.
The company jumped right in, giving the pupils new ways of getting to know each other but this time without any talking. Niki asked the pupils to work very closely, attaching their individual body parts to each other, encouraging the mixing of all genders. Whilst, of course, this is initially daunting for 9 and 10 year olds, it didn’t take long for them to lose their inhibitions. Niki led the group on a storytelling mission which had all of the participants jumping up to contribute. The class gave the story of Snow White some magnificent new twists that included an elaborate costume idea for the Evil Queen. The pupils identified that often there are problems with pantomimes that make them less accessible for young children than adults may think. They noted that villains are very scary, the jokes aren’t very easy to understand and they are very, very long! So Stuff and Nonsense have committed to create a new version of our traditional theatrical pantomime; a pantomime that is specifically created for children.
The workshop then went back to basics and introduced the devising technique ‘improvisation’. As Niki, very succinctly explained to the Norwood School pupils, “improvising is just a fancy adult word for making stuff up”. What Stuff and Nonsense do best is their creation of a world where children and adults alike can be silly and free to create. The Norwood pupils were so incredibly engaged in sharing their ideas that when Niki asked for acting volunteers every single hand rose to the ceiling. Bringing these young people into their process of devising a new show shows them that something creative is not made in the space of a few hours. There are moments of difficulty, moments of failure as well as moments of celebration. These workshops have shown pupils that failure doesn’t have to be scary. It teaches you how to overcome it with confidence next time.
Pupils will be able to see how their creative ideas are brought to life when Puppet Panto comes to The Berry Theatre this Christmas.