I took my middle girl and my youngest girl to two different Adelaide Festival Shows on the weekend. My six year old and I went to a dance production and my four year old and I went to see Jack and the Beanstalk. Both shows were aimed at people older than they are – the first for adults and the second for eight year olds and up. I took a risk, ignored the age guide and took them along. For me, the arts is not exclusive to particular ages. The arts is about experiences, broadening your point of view and creating memories. The arts are for everyone and to be relevant needs to be experienced by more than just the cashed-up elite.
It was an experiment that paid off. Here’s two reviews.
Jack and the Beanstalk
4.5 stars out of 5
The first 10 minutes of this show were terrifying, abstract and very dark. It set the seen for the rest of production, yet I’d argue for children, even those prepared for an artistic experience, it was too grisly. At first I wondered if perhaps we should leave, given that my child was holding my arm so tightly and shaking in her seat, but then the mood lightened somewhat. And slowly the spectators were given more chances to become active participants – essential in good kid’s theatre. I want my children to leave a performance engaged and excited about what they’ve seen. I want them to want to go back to the theatre. I was initially worried my four year old would not even step back into a darkened room ever again.
I underestimated her. The creators of this show did not.
The sets made out of cardboard boxes were inspired. It gives the power back to the children to create their own worlds at home. Art is within their reach. The enchanting accompanying live music was a character of its own. The puppetry gave this show some frivolity and heart among the darkness. Even the ogre, while fearful, was ridiculous enough the children feared it not.
Jack’s acrobatic skills were a highlight. His strength, athleticism and whimsical use of the “beanstalk” was breathtaking.
This show was a wonderful one, an intelligent and challenging piece. It was memorable, not lost among the saccharine cliched tripe, oven served up to children under the misguided label of “theatre”.
As we left the production, I scooped up one single bean from the stage and my four year old carried it tightly in her hand all the way home. She rushed to the back yard and planted it. The first thing she did this morning was run outside to see if a beanstalk had grown. It had not, but she wasn’t disheartened. She’d forgotten to water it, tomorrow it will grow.
I needn’t be worried that she was frightened at all. The experience had done quite the opposite. She was excited and built her own theatre and has been putting on shows ever since. That is the sign of a great show.
Mixed Rep: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
5 stars out of 5
This New York dance production was mesmerising. The dancing sublime, the choreography (shared by three different choreographers) gritty, challenging and confronting. The use of lightening, shadows and the score dramatic and stunning. I was challenged by every nuanced movement. I was in awe of the athleticism of the dancers. The mastery of their bodies.
As too was my six year old companion. My daughter.
Taking your six year old to a dance performance on a Friday night is met with mixed reactions. There were definitely some of Adelaide’s elite who were none too impressed with a child taking up a seat in a sold out theatre to what was one of the Festival’s most hotly anticipated productions. There were people who, when they met my eyes, bore down on me with contempt. Not to mention the fellow parents who were out, child free and feared my child would somehow taint their evening. And seriously, who would take their child out at such a late hour? I was not the only one with a child, thankfully, there was a handful of us. We nodded at each other, encouragingly.
Then there were the theatre goers who smiled and acknowledged us fondly. Who commented on how delightful it was to see a child in the audience. Who were excited to see the passion for the arts being shared by the young. Who could perhaps remember going with their parents to shows at night with fondness. And then there were the three men who sat in front of us, who noticed my girl and swapped seats so she could see past them. One of them got to his feet and went to the usher to find an extra cushion for her to sit on. They made our night extra special.
My six year old was so excited when the lights went down and the curtain was drawn. She squealed and sat high on her seat, her neck craned to watch the dancers. She squeezed my hand and her eyes darted around the theatre, taking in the lights, the crowds and the mesmerising performance.
And then after the second interval (one interval too many), I felt her breathing steady and her body loosen. She nestled down into the crook of my arm and her eyes got heavy. She was fighting it, but then sleep took over. Like a newborn sleeping through the sounds of a vacuum cleaner, my girl quietly snored while the drums got louder and louder. She even slept through the standing ovation. Ad when the lights came up in the theatre I had to gently rouse her from her slumber. Her disorientation quickly changed to twinkles. She grabbed my hand and stepped out into the night. Hot chocolates, the light show on the Torrens and a late night cab ride through the city – the perfect ending to a magical night.
That is what the arts is all about.