Well, here I am at 7am on a beautiful Tuesday morning in Beeston, feeling that today is the day I enter my first blog on the Dandelionroar site, also copied onto DNA site. I will start with an apology, because I know full well that I will go off in many directions before I get to the point. It is worth noting at the very beginning of this blog that I have come in right at the very end of a 2-year programme of work. This is not a negative comment, but merely a fact that will colour my observations. A huge thank you to Rachel and Adam for giving me such a fantastic opportunity with Imaginary Leaps, Ruth, Susan, Emma and the rest of the team for organising such a great trip.
I met Emma and Natasha at Manchester Airport on Wednesday morning feeling quite nervous being the “new girl”, especially given that Rachel’s shoes are pretty big to step into, but I needn’t have worried, I was given a very warm welcome and introduction to the Dandelion Project. On a very enjoyable plane journey Emma and Natasha gave me a lightening tour of the main players in the project, the learners and the important role the Dandelion network plays.
Arriving safely in Villach and being picked up and whisked to Hotel Golden Lambe, I pondered on my role within this already established group of practitioners and decided to “go with the flow,” and anyway it is not every day that you get the opportunity to visit such a beautiful country.
Lizzie heard our entry into the foyer of the hotel, and ran downstairs to meet us. The three musketters and d’Artagnan are now complete. I want to thank all three for their generosity of spirit and for helping to make my journey and stay in Villach so special.
Bags dropped, 15 minute freshen up then on to grab a quick toastie followed by a pleasant walk to the Reception where I had the pleasure of meeting Gerald Groechenig, Valeria, Hanne, Gabi, Susann, Katharina and Helga and another Helga – our translater. Then the extraordinary happened – Rebekah Wild – practitioner from New Zealand and Artistic Director of Wild Theatre caught my eye. I had spent a glorious week with Rebekah on the island of Bornholm in September 2009 as part of a Medieval Festival of work. Squeals, hugs and “I cannot believe it is you” & “what are you doing here” continued for a few minutes, until we settled and made introductions all round.
Two subjects have stayed with me since my return from Villach, and I will cover just one subject this morning. The first was during an informal discussion on the first evening. Valeria said that she was born at a good time. A time of great opportunity for women. I became fascinated with her story, the opportunities she grasped and how she became part of the exciting, vibrant world that is La Baracca. I ponder my own place in history. I was born in the mid 50s; I remember a time when there was little money, no car, very little TV, lots of radio. As a child I had an ability to “make myself scarce” and listen and watch the adults around me. I think I was also born at a “a good time,” when family get together’s were a weekly occurrence, family parties with singing, dancing and storytelling were a natural part of my childhood. At around 8 years of age we mimicked the grown ups, dressing up, creating little scenarios and having the courage to show them, and then at 10 years eventually spending our six weeks summer holidays rehearsing and putting on a show in someone’s garage – the family was very rich – they had a car! I was lucky to have my Great Grandmother until I was 13 years of age. She told me stories of her childhood, told me of being ayoung woman during the turn of the 20th Century, told me of being a young suffragette in Salford, and of her many adventures through life. These stories were told simply – using simple words and gestures. She had patience and time to give to her Great Granddaughter and encouraged the development of my imagination and helped me to understand and celebrate who I am, my history, but above all it developed a deep love & respect for this remarkable storyteller. So, the statement Valeria made “Born at a good Time” has opened a floodgate for me and I will probably continue to bore you all with my ponderings.
So, what has my experience of childhood to do with theatre for the Early Years? Well as a performer/director, Mother, Grandmother of two little ones and a relative newcomer to the creation of work for early years, I yearn for a simple style of theatre. For a way of connecting with my audience – just like my Great Grandmother. I am constantly concerned about the onslaught of images and sounds children come into contact with particularly from TV and DVDs. I was impressed by what Roberto Frabetti stated during Thursday evening’s discussion about his view on the arts and his work with La Baracca. “Theatre (and by this he says that he means all the arts) is fundemental – it develops sensitivity, helps us to hear, to perceive, to walk together, to feel the world around us. Art is our duty. Children need sufficient quantities of theatre over a period of years, but it has to be good theatre. We cannot leave children in the hands of commercial theatre.”
Did I come into contact with Good Theatre as a child? During my work with Imaginary Leaps, I recently visited the council estate I was brought up on. The place that has so many good memories for me – it was a terrible shock. The images are too painful to describe, but there is a great deal of good work being done particularly within early years settings. So, I need to think some more about Good Theatre and how it can be brought to the chldren.
Can Children’s Theatre be anywhere and everywhere – can it happen in the family, happen in the street, can it happen in a nursery setting, in a theatre? During a discussion following THE BRIDGE Valeria answered the question “what type of actor performs for children?” Her answer is somewhat paraphrased in my interpretation – “An actor needs to feel immediately what sort of audience you have in front of you – feel the space – feel the people. This allows you to peform in front of any age and ability. Performers should have an inbuilt mechanism. A good performer knows its audience – its a performer’s basic instinct.”
I think this is the end of my first blog – I have lots of thoughts on what Valeria said about being a good performer, I also have thoughts on Helios Theater Hamm’s HOLZKLOPFEN, Roberto’s fantastic workshop and informal chats with the girls, but I will save this for later.