DanceEast family show will fly youngsters to the moon
- Credit: Archant
A new children’s show at the DanceHouse, in Ipswich, combines dance with circus skills and plenty of surprises. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to choreographer Tamsin Fitzgerald about inspiring a new generation of theatregoers
Creating a show for families is always a challenge, merging dance with other art forms like circus offers a range of creative dilemmas and opportunities and providing an inventive, magical space for the dancers to work in, which will inspire children’s imaginations, makes extra demands.
So, Tamsin Fitzgerald, choreographer and artistic director of 2Faced Dance Company, knew that she was testing herself when she decided to create something new to bring families together and to the theatre during the Easter holidays.
Inspired by a little known story by Hans Christian Andersen and re-imagined as a contemporary fairytale, What The Moon Saw presents a magical journey through the night for youngsters and parents alike.
Alone in the world and scared of the dark, young Jack opens his bedroom curtains to find a familiar friendly face, the moon. The moon, shining bright, teaches Jack how to be brave by taking him on an amazing adventure across the world, showing him all that he sees and teaching him all that he knows.
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As he looks out at the moon, Jack’s world comes to life.
What drew you to the story?
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“When I decided that I would like to do a children’s show, I started looking at all the other children’s shows out there and I realised that they were quite female orientated and we wanted to find something that could relate more to boys. We are a male dance company and so that was important. Then I came across this story by Hans Christian Andersen which I didn’t know and hadn’t been done on stage very much, if at all.
“A classic show, which hasn’t been done, is quite rare to find and that gave us the room to re-imagine it and give it a more up-to-date feel. The original is a series of short stories which really leant itself to being adapted. So, we have re-imagined it rather than taking it literally off the page.
What elements of the story fired your imagination?
“I really loved the idea of travel, of travelling around to different countries, seeing new things, new cultures and wherever you go you have the moon gazing down at you. As a company we had just come back from India when we started work on this, so it felt very apt.
In your updated story Jack has just moved home, so the moon is the one constant in his life?
“The moon is rather magical. It’s very presence is very reassuring for Jack because everything else has changed.
What have been the challenges in coming up with a family show that will satisfy a wide age range?
“I have directed several pantomimes in the past and there is always an adult undercurrent, something for the grown-ups that would pass over the kids heads. I wanted this to be different because I wanted to appeal to very young children from two or three years old and clearly I knew that there would be adults coming along with them but what is interesting about this work is that, in many children’s shows the adults obviously know the story before they arrive, but for What The Moon Saw, they don’t know that story, so we can tell it straight and keep their attention because they won’t already know it. A lot of our work is inter-generational from grandparents to young children and we always try to create an atmosphere that engages everyone.
“With this we wanted to create a space which welcomed everyone. We didn’t want it to appear to be a dark, theatre space, it wasn’t separating the audience from the stage, we wanted it to feel like ‘the bedroom’ and you all inhabit that space. We thought it would be a fun idea if everyone came in their pyjamas and then it would be more of an experience rather than just a show.
How important was it to get the setting right?
“I work really closely with the designer. I wanted dancers to appear off a shelf or out of an Ottoman, so everything was made up of surprises and I was clear that I wanted the whole thing to look like a child’s drawing. Everything that appears in the show looks like Jack’s drawings. I love the fact that things live in your wardrobe, children always think that, that can be equally magical or frightening. I love how his clothes turn into the dragon. At the end of the performance the children will be allowed to go up onto the stage and draw all over the set in chalk which is something you would never be able to do at home. It’s getting children used to theatre because they are the next generation of audiences.
What The Moon Saw, by 2Faced dance Company, is at the Jerwood DanceHouse, on Ipswich Waterfront, for four performances on Friday and Saturday April 13-14.