Zoleka Helesi

Theatres deliberately target children to broaden their appeal, writes Theresa Smith

Take A Child To Theatre is a campaign promoted and celebrated around the world by Assitej during the month of March. The campaign, centred around March 20 as World Day of Theatre for Children, places emphasis on ensuring that all children and young people have quality theatre made especially for them.

This focus enables national Assitej centres, individual members, companies, arts organisations, teachers, artists and others interested in theatre for young audiences to connect with the idea of World Day and make the case that children are entitled to theatre and arts.

Assitej SA Director and President of Assitej International, Yvette Hardie, says in her World Theatre Day Message:

“When a group of South African township-based youth started to work on a play for very young children, they discovered that making the work required that they nurture, rediscover, or in some cases, discover for the very first time… the innocence, the tenderness, the vulnerability, and potential wholeness within themselves.

“This began a profound healing process for these young artists which deeply affected them and which has motivated them to continue exploring in the field.

“By nurturing ourselves into greater wholeness, we are able to enter into a more whole relationship with our audience. We are also able to offer parents and children, families, teachers, care-givers and their charges, opportunities to see the world through the eyes of the youngest amongst us.”

Ahead of the Assitej international gathering and the festival Cradle of Creativity, due to take place in Cape Town next year, the wide-spread South African participation in this year’s campaign sets the bar for a powerful national footprint on the international stage.

Already, local theatremakers who aim their work at children and young people are working on new productions and we get to see the work first.

In Cape Town, the Vamos Theatre, the UK’s leading full mask theatre company, are offering a series of workshops with participants from partners Assitej, HTP, CWBSA and FTH: K to introduce them to the theatre style which uses no speech, is based on physical clarity and precision and involves techniques that are useful to not only performers, but directors, teachers, business people and others.

Space at the professional workshop at OurNiaSpace, Observatory, on Friday is limited so e-mail [email protected] for more information about this workshop as well as the Full Mask Workshop for Young People on Saturday and Sunday, also in Observatory.

The Obs Family Festival takes place from today until Monday at Theatre Arts Admin Collective, cnr Milton Road and Wesley Street, Observatory. Theatre works are aimed at specific ages with some productions for those aged younger than 7, like Molo Lollo for the babies aged 1 to 3 and Richard Antrobus’s The Cloud Catcher, aimed at the 4- to 7-year-old group.

For the teens, there is Jason Jacobs’ Stof Rooi and Francesco Nassimbeni’s You Suck and there is dance for all ages, plus conversations and workshops. Check www.theatrearts.co.za for the full festival programme.

Jayne Batzofin’s No fun ction alL angauge fulfils the Chaeli Campaign’s mandate to create a performance piece aimed at the 16+ teen market about how we (mis)communicate. The finely- wrought piece is divided into chapters and uses live music effectively – the chapter exploring how social media effectively separates people, while creating the illusion of communication, is particularly funny. It runs at the Masque Theatre, Muizenberg, until March 31 at 8pm (except Sundays and Mondays) and at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective on Sunday at 7pm.

Some of the local theatres have become involved with the campaign by donating tickets, like The Fugard Theatre donated 30 tickets for children to watch District Six Kanala, while Magnet Theatre donated 20 tickets for children to watch the Fleur du Cap-nominated I Turned Away and She Was Gone.

The Baxter Theatre is currently hosting their Zabalaza Theatre Festival which encompasses children-friendly shows such as Zoleka Helesi’s Xhosa adaptation of Bangalory’s Back, in which she acted under Janice Honeyman’s direction. Now called Amabali Ethu, the show runs until Friday at 10.30am.

Mawonga Gayiya’s magic show, Astonish, runs today at 1pm. Call 021 685 7880 to find out more.

Artscape will present Cheryl Abromowitz’s Tales of Little Grey Rabbit from Saturday to April 2 at 10.30am. Call 021 421 7695 to book.

Jungle Theatre Company perform River of Life/Umlambo Wobomo in the Masque Theatre foyer in Muizenberg from March 22 to 24 at 10am. Contact the Masque ticketline at 021 788 1898.

Jungle Theatre also present a free performance of Butterfly Dreams in the Company Gardens in Cape Town on Saturday at 10.30am. The street theatre piece is aimed at those aged nine and older.