Theatre-rites, Catch Your Breath

Review in Issue 15-1 | Spring 2003

There was a heated exchange in the letters page of the Guardian a while back when a critic made the assumption that books for children and young people were merely simple-minded versions of adult literature. Her unwise remarks were given the kicking they deserved.

There's a similar assumption made about children's theatre, but anyone who has seen the work of Theatre-rites will know that this assumption too needs booting into touch. Catch Your Breath is aimed at 3-6 year-olds. They are seated on blankets which are laid all over the floor. Parents either sit with the more nervous and young on the blanket or sit at the back. Not having a child I sat at the back and tried to look a bit paternal! The company of three women are there to welcome the children as they sit down and introduce them to the concept that things will be taken out of a variety of bags. The performers are friendly, very open and amazingly patient.

When everyone is seated, a gentle flood of electronic music ushers in the show. A small house is produced; it contains a young girl who we can see moving inside. A quick transformation turns the house into the girl puppet and it is through her eyes that we watch the show. A frame is taken out of a bag and we see it bend into a big house; this becomes a place for the puppet girl to play. Walls (made of fabric) are put in place and act as screens for projections which play with ideas of inside/outside. A big wolf arrives to threaten the security the girl has. This could scare the audience but because the performers have kept eye contact with them and created a reassuring atmosphere the image can develop rather than merely frighten.

The set transforms into a city of tower blocks which to start with are a little intimidating but soon become a playground for the girl and the wolf who we learn has a bark worse than his bite. At the end the set transforms (again!) into a big structure and the audience are invited to crawl inside and meet the characters they've been watching – the adults were champing at the bit by this time to join them. I realise that I'm not the target audience for the company but I found the show constantly unpredictable and enjoyable and got as much out of the experience as I would watching a show for adults. They seem to get so closely into the mind of a young child that for a 46 year-old, it's like watching a show put on for a closely related species!

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-1
p. 27