Stuart Cottrell, Literary Manager at PaddleBoat Theatre Company, explains more about the production.
Can you tell us a little about According to Arthur…
According to Arthur… is the story of an extraordinary old man who needs reminding of just how extraordinary he is. It is our second show, and we developed it over the course of a school term working with the pupils of White Rock Primary School in Torbay. It combines mime, music, puppetry, object play and storytelling, and requires engagement from the audience to help Arthur along the way. We’ve been touring it now for about 6 months and the responses we get in schools, theatres and libraries is something very special – we don’t want to give too much away but all our audiences, no matter their age, seem to find something to love in old Arthur. We’ve also turned the show into a storybook, published under PaddleBoat Theatre Press – you can buy copies from our website or after the show.
The play was developed with the help of primary school children – how much influence did they have on the final piece?
The year 5 pupils that we worked with were so helpful in narrowing down what the show was really about. We performed the first 10 minutes of it to them and then led a term’s worth of workshops exploring what might happen next. Before we went in we had loads of ideas – too many ideas – about where the piece could go; it would be about travel and memory and different cultures and be really interactive and so on. The final piece is all of these things, but the classes we worked with were very clear that the story was really all about Arthur – all they wanted to know was who this old man was, where he had come from, what he had done in his life, and why he lived in his attic. Within 10 minutes they identified that he was the heart of the story, and his character and story flourished under their curiosity.
What do you enjoy most about developing work for young audiences?
It feels entirely natural to be making theatre for young audiences. Theatre is the perfect art form for them – at its heart it relies on imagination and play and that makes it a space where young audiences are actively engaged and encouraged to embrace what comes naturally to us all. You cannot dumb down, you have to be creatively ambitious and tell the very best story you possibly can. The stories we share with children are rich in imagination, vibrancy, ambition and courage, and so to make work for them you have to be all of those things. That’s a big challenge, but it is an absolute delight to push ourselves to be imaginative, vibrant, ambitious and courageous.
According to Arthur… is performed in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse on Saturday 2 April 2016 as part of Theatre Fest West and suitable for those aged 4+. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or visit the show page on our website.