Actors have audience’s attention all sewn up

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ct Patchwork 3 TEENIE: Asanda Rilityana and Joanna Evans appear in Patchwork.

DIRECTOR: Joanna Evans
CAST: Joanna Evans, Asanda Rilityana, Pedro Espi Sanchis
VENUE: Masambe Theatre, Baxter Theatre Centre
UNTIL: Saturday


“Hide me!” comes the peremptory command from somewhere in the front.

Up on the stage two of the actors are playing hide-and-seek with a sheet, repeatedly hiding their faces and then showing surprise when they uncover themselves and see the audience. The little person in front has clearly decided to get in on the action and wants to play along.

I am watching a performance of Patchwork, a short little theatre piece designed to appeal to children aged one to four. Since I am not in this age group, I have to watch the little ones around me to see if it is working, and it appears to be for many of them.

The three performers are keeping it very simple – large gestures, lots of repetition and sound to emphasise movements. There doesn’t seem to be a storyline running through the piece – as the name suggests it is a patchwork of stitched-together little vignettes.

Everything is centred around a bed, suggesting a bedroom which, for many children, is the most familiar and comforting of spaces.Words are kept to a bare minimum, mostly it is sounds used to emphasise movement rather than anything coherent to an adult.

From the moment they come out to greet the children queuing at the door, the performers include the children in the performance, getting all of them to pick a tiny pillow out of a sack.

Yet, there is a clear delineation between what happens on the stage and the children as the audience once everyone is seated.

“Why did the sheep jump over the moon,” one child asks, very perplexed because this is not how it is supposed to go in her book.

“Let’s see what’s going to happen now,” her mother suggests.

“He’s making it bigger,” one child chortles as a performer tugs on a sheet.

“It’s wind,” cries another as the sheet ripples in the hands of the three performers.

Laughter breaks out as the one actor keeps on stealing the sheet from the other performer. This proves to be infectious as the two play and the children think this is hilarious.

“Wat maak hulle nou,” another one asks.

So not only is what they are seeing sparking curiosity, they are also suggesting possibilities and definitely being entertained.

Most of the children seem to be engaged with what is happening on the stage. After the performance I find out that a few of the children – the ones who started fidgeting – have actually been to several other child-specific performances and have gained some sophisticated tastes when it comes to theatre. So, they are already coming to expect a storyline to follow and a pay-off ending.

For the truly little ones though, who have no experience with theatre productions of any kind, this one really worked – especially when they get to be part of the show at the end and put the teddy bear to bed.

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