Artists Interviews

September 2013: Cliodhna Noonan

Sarah Argent

Images (c) Kirsten McTernan

Performer: Kevin Richard Lewis

Having set up various professional development events focussing on early years’ performance while running the British Centre of ASSITEJ, my first job as a creator/director of this work was for Cardiff’s Theatr Iolo back in October 2001. I was invited to lead ’Fragments in a Corner’, a 5-week period of research & development taking as its primary inspiration a book of stories for children inspired by the Arte Povera movement. This practical exploration of the work resulted in the company’s philosophy for early years work: "In creating ’Small plays for small people’ - we are endeavouring to see if they can sit and watch a piece of theatre which, while poetic and sensory, requires its audience to engage with characters and empathise with their emotional journey; pieces of theatre which, while they feature a constant breaching of the fourth wall, do not invite the children to engage in active participation".

It then led to the creation of Theatr Iolo’s first touring production specifically for this young age group; ’Are We There Yet?’ toured extensively across the UK, and was invited to the Imaginate Festival in Edinburgh and to festivals in Austria, Belgium and Finland.

I have had the pleasure of: attending the ’Visioni di futuro, visioni di teatro’ festival in Bologna; of participating in workshops led by Valeria Frabetti of La Baracca, Barbara Kölling of Helios Theater, and Charlotte Fallon of Théâtre de la Guimbarde; and of observing rehearsals by these companies. I have attended many Small Size events at Polka Theatre in London, at which artists have shared their practice. I was also the recipient of a Small Size Seed Fund Award towards the creation of my first show for babies, "Out of the Blue". This production has been through many revisions and periods of development in response to wonderful, constructive feedback from members of the Small Size network, and it will be touring again later this year and in Spring 2014.

Contact and conversations with some of the leading figures in early years theatre via the Small Size Big Citizen network has had a profound effect on my work and on the philosophy behind my work. So many comments on their creative process and images from their productions live with me constantly while I am planning or making work; while I am observing children and adults watching my productions; and when I reflect on how well these productions have achieved their aims. I owe the network a great deal!

For adults to become as comfortable as small children are with the absurd, the poetic, the chaotic, the random in a piece of theatre.

For programmers of venues to be brave enough to include as many (if not more!) newly-created pieces of work as adaptations of children’s books.

For me (herself) to continue for many years to have the privilege of sitting alongside very young children while observing the joy, excitement, stillness, wide-eyed focus, awe and wonder, and peals of laughter with which they greet a performance which captures and delights their emotions and imagination.

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