It is rare to find reviews of children’s theatre, because a lot of the time, it’s not seen as important or worthy of coverage. In reality, theatre for children matches the quality of theatre for adults, and it deserves a far larger spotlight in society.
Art desks and editors often don’t take children’s theatre seriously, and I believe this is due to the fact that adults often don’t take children seriously, either. Children’s media is not, and shouldn’t be, only meaningless cartoons or over-acted performances with no substance. Everyone agrees that children absorb a lot of meaning from what goes on around them, and yet productions for children are disregarded as unimportant. Children’s experiences in the world are important, and when “the wellbeing of children in the UK is measured against that of other countries, we come very low in the league of industrialised nations (Lyn Gardner “Why Children’s Theatre Matters” for The Guardian 23/10/2013). There is a clear connection between the lack of care for children’s creativity and the poor wellbeing statistics.
To engage with the performing arts or to go to the theatre should not be a luxury for “the privileged few” but rather, a place for everyone. To engage with creativity, alternative narratives, empathy, imagination, and other worlds is to expand and strengthen the mind in a way that typical academics does not. Theatre encourages these mental exercises, and too many children are missing out.
There is hope yet, because children’s theatre such as The Lion King, Aladdin, Matilda and School of Rock have been incredibly successful in the recent past. While these productions are fantastic and have received plenty of great reviews, the theatre world still needs to find ways to make performances more kid-friendly and inclusive to all. Cheaper ticket prices would help, and perhaps alternative theatre set-ups, because not all children can sit through a performance quietly in their chair. Interactive theatre might be appreciated by hyper active children, and more intervals could help as well. The list of ideas for improving access to children’s theatre goes on and on. Luckily, smash hits such as the four mentioned above could start the momentum we need to make progress.