What Three Year Olds Taught Us

Woodland is our show for very young children and their families, it’s a nature sanctuary for imaginary animals which people are invited in to watch a show and explore.  Creating Woodland was a bit of an experiment for us, we’d never made something for such a young audience and knew that though we advertised to 3-5 year olds, we would need to take care of babies and adults too. We were conscious that getting it wrong would not just result in disgruntled mutters outside a theatre auditorium, it would result in crying, heckles, tantrums and stage invaders.

The challenge, which was set by Greenwich Theatre, was too good not to take. Not only did we want to make a great show for an audience who are often excluded from theatres, we wanted to learn more about what makes an excellent experience for everyone. It was our instinct that though a toddler and a 40 year old seem very different, we could discover some common ground, some golden moments of fundamentally human behaviour which could make our other shows better for all.

After making the show (massive thanks to Director/guru Matt Addicott) and 18 months of touring Woodland we’ve learnt a lot, here are some observations the tour performers have made along the way, they are very much about all people, not just children:

  • Being told that theatre is a special treat makes it feel like one.
  • Walking in to a completely silent room can be a bit intimidating.
  • Choosing how to make yourself comfortable when sitting down takes away a potential distraction.
  • A laugh from an audience member early on lets everyone else know it’s OK to enjoy yourself.
  • Being part of a group makes you brave, holding hands makes you pretty close to invincible.
  • Being offered food in the theatre can be calming or distracting depending on its timing.
  • Feeling as if your reactions are being watched and assessed when you’re in an audience is intimidating.
  • Being able to see the sky and natural light helps you feel relaxed.
  • A sudden change of volume or pace can grab your attention.
  • People are very good at sensing atmosphere from music.
  • It’s very tempting to join in with a pronounced rhythm.
  • Seeing things is more exciting than just being told about them, touching things is better still.
  • Everyone wants to be careful and gentle with someone smaller than themselves.
  • Sudden disappearances of people you care about is upsetting, saying goodbye and giving reason to an ending is important.
  • When families sit, react and check in with each other everyone has more fun.

Our next show Roost has no suggested age on it. It happens at 8:30pm so that may influence some attendees, but all are welcome, please tell anyone too young to be reading this. You can expect music to create atmosphere, to see the sky, touch the set and be encouraged to make yourself comfortable. It will hopefully be clear quite early on that it’s OK to laugh!

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