I don’t remember seeing any children’s theatre when I was a child. My mum was a drama teacher and my dad an enthusiastic amateur actor so there was plenty of theatre visits. Mostly Shakespeare and Noel Cowards and the occasional musical. But I don’t think I ever saw anything that had been made especially for younger audiences until I came to the Imaginate Festival in 2008.
I was also lucky enough to be part of a group of writers to take part in a workshop with Gill Robertson (Catherine Wheels) and Jo Timmins (Lyra Theatre). We were all playwrights but had never written for children. Gill and Jo lead us in a bunch of games – I recall a treasure hunt across Edinburgh – and challenged us to think differently about how we might approach making work.
It’s 2015 and my third Imaginate presenting a show. Seeing such consistently brilliant work from around the world opened my eyes as theatre maker to the possibilities of writing for an audience that is challenging sometimes terrifying but always responsive. You’ve got nowhere to hide. Children are the very definition of a live audience. If they get bored, they let you know. And thankfully, if they like it they will also share their enthusiasm. In my opinion, if you’re serious about making theatre you should try writing for children.
Oh and the best thing about performing at Imaginate is that you get a little badge with the name of your show on. Forget awards and movie contracts. These little badges are what you really want.