Children are often said to be the most “difficult”—or, to put it another way, most honest—theatre audience performers are ever likely to face: they’re not “adult” enough to hide their boredom or loss of interest. Equally, though, they can be the most involved, if the show holds their attention. This is something Scottish company Starcatchers know very well, having spent most of the last decade creating performances specifically aimed at (arguably) the most challenging children’s audience imaginable–babies and toddlers.
As performers, Feijoo and Gregg are relaxed and, while towering over their audience, remain friendly and welcoming
The Shape of Things, created by Starcatchers’ Ailie Cohen with Marc Mac Lochlainn of Irish children’s theatre company Branar Téatar, uses a mix of puppetry, music and staging to successfully hold the attention of an audience of children aged between six and 24 months (although those who seemed to enjoy the show most appeared to be around 12 months old). The audience is sat underneath a tree-like giant umbrella (which is actually made out of a parachute) from which hang strings of soft cubes and triangles. Our hosts—Saras Feijoo and Helen Gregg—are dressed like elves, the colours of their outfits matching those of their surroundings. Miguel Barcelo’s gentle music immediately creates a relaxing, curious atmosphere, in which the constantly smiling Feijoo and Gregg instantly form a connection with their young audience.
The “story”, as such, is uncomplicated and gently repeated; squares and triangles are discovered, admired and then moved to one of three “homes” around the tent—the third becoming useful once an unexpected circle appears on the scene. However, any suggestion that this show is just about definition and difference is soon undermined by the genuinely attention-grabbing appearance of two puppets, Cubert the cube and Triantán the triangle who, while clearly different, end up playing and having a great time together.
As performers, Feijoo and Gregg are relaxed and, while towering over their audience, remain friendly and welcoming, expertly ensuring that the necessary repetitions are unforced and grounded in the world of the show. And, of course, they are then the perfect hosts during the 10 minutes of interactive soft play that follows the half-hour performance, which enables many of the toddlers to finally touch, hold and explore the shapes they’d been keenly reaching out to for most of the duration!
Undoubtedly a warm, well-balanced production with genuine appeal for its intended audience.