A unique ‘sensory theatre’ show to inspire toddlers and young children debuts at The Lowry theatre this weekend.
The play follows Aleena (Christobel Fox) as she tends to her garden from the first days of spring through to the snowy fun of winter.
There’s sounds, smells, lights and props specially-made for very young children on what could be their first ever theatre visit.
‘Aleena’s Garden’ has been developed by local company Colour The Clouds along with help from the Salford Quays theatre team and is designed with interactive and multi-sensory elements at its heart.
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The first two shows will feature on Saturday 15 October at 11am and 1pm.
The last two shows will take place the following day on Sunday 16 October at 11am and 1pm.
SalfordOnline.com had the chance to interview the show’s lead actress, Christabel Fox, 27, who is a company director and resident artist at Colour The Clouds.
The actress graduated from Salford University after studying Performing Arts.
Why is this interactive, multi-sensory production important and relevant?
“Because of the age group that we’re aiming at, which is up to three-year-olds, we very much wanted to be their first theatrical experience.
“The children will all get to interact with a lot of the props. It’s going to be very interactive and sensory as well: there will be lights and they will be able to touch and smell.
“We just really want to involve them in theatre.
“We work a lot with this age range in a lot of different settings: community settings and in nurseries and schools and we’ve really been able to see the benefit of having different theatrical experiences for that age group.
“There isn’t a lot of work out there solely for this age group at the moment and so we decided that we would take what we’ve learnt from working with different ideas, like story telling and drama workshops, and attempted to put it into a theatre show that is dedicated to that age range”.
How do you know the show has been a success? Since children won’t really cheer or clap, how do you measure the end result?
“Well, you say that, but they make a lot of noise.
“What’s really interesting when we’re working with this age group is that you’re looking at feedback from the children themselves and parents, so they play a key part in the research we’ve done and the development of the show.
“So, for example, we had a play-day last week where we had lots of children from around 7 months to 3-and-a-half, 4 and we tested little parts of the show on them, we interacted with them and just generally watched them play.
“So that’s been really instrumental in feeding back what we put into the show and we’re really grateful as well that we get to do that because sometimes you have ideas which you’d otherwise not get to develop beforehand.
“Its been really useful to have that experience in our research and development. Particularly with this show”.
While creating this sensory world for children to immerse themselves in, what are some of the technical and practical issues you have had to overcome?
“Like you said before, the unpredictability of children can sometimes take you off in a different direction.
“We’ve been working with children for a long time so we’re kind of unfazed now and we prepare for being taken in different directions, prepare for the unexpected basically.
“Something else which can be difficult is that, particularly with this show, we have lots of props and mechanics.
“We reply a lot on the lights coming on at the right time. Sometimes, when you’re relying on mechanics like that you’re thinking “please don’t let the bubble machine break,” so things like that can be a challenge to overcome and I guess its about finding the right things.
“I mean, we’re not compromising on our ideas, but we’re also making sure that our ideas are practical and that we’re prepared”.
Has the rise in 3D and 4D cinematic and theatrical techniques influenced your desire to implement it into your work?
“I think what’s great about theatre is that it’s real.
“It really there in front of you.
You can touch, you can smell, you can interact with it in a very real way and I think that’s what important to us: to give the kids that first theatrical experience as being magic.
“But, it’s more tangible magic than the cinema or virtual reality.
“It really important to give children that experience if its their first time at a theatre show”.
And finally, why is Salford the best place for this kind of production?
“We’re all really passionate about Salford, because, as a company, four out of five of us graduated from Salford University.
“We’ve done a lot of work with the Lowry, who are obviously based in Salford, and we’re extending the work that they do in the community.
“So, its really nice for us to be able to premier it here and there really is a good kind of community of families that I think at least have the information to access the different things that the Lowry provides.
“In some areas, its either not talked about or its hidden away.
“Whereas in Salford, there’s a lot going on and I think families and communities have that opportunity to experience what’s on offer.
“The Lowry also has a really great programme for families who may not have access to the theatre or haven’t been before.
“So they have a sort of three-step programme where, first of all they’ll pay for tickets, for lunch and for transport for the children, and then the next time the children’s families will pay for one part of it, and so on, in the hope that families are encouraged to maintain a relationship with the theatre.
“I think that there’s a group of people who have been through that process who are coming to the show, so that’s really exciting for us”.
Tickets are £5.50 for children and £8.50 for adults.
For more information and to book a ticket, visit: http://www.thelowry.com/event/aleenas-garden1