The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Live Theatre for Kids – How Digital Could Make a Difference.

By Nathan Guy

Actor, Drama Coach and Drama Lead and Creative Support Teacher at Griffin Schools Trust

In this world turned upside down by the Corona virus much has been altered. There is a very relevant fear that our children are having a part of their childhood stolen by the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the midst of the fear and the unknown that the pandemic brings, I see opportunity. A way to do things differently. To continue to find different ways to share our experiences and the stories of others. We can continue to broaden young people’s understanding of themselves in terms of hopes and aspirations for their future.  Right now, young people need us more than ever: the arts are the missing link. A way to bridge the gap. From fear to understanding. We can utilise the arts to support young people. The truth is that there is nothing on earth so valuable as supplying children with the nourishment that they didn't know they needed.

Theatre has the ability to remind us we are not alone : it helps us to escape reality. As an audience member, you become intrigued about the lives and story lines of the characters; you laugh with them, cry with them and feel with them. You forget about what is happening in your personal life for a couple of hours and enjoy looking into the life of other people. It is the same for actors too who escape from reality to become somebody else and tell their story.

There is a plethora of research boasting of benefits associated to teaching the arts: taking an active part in theatre has proven to be beneficial which reinforces its importance in schools today. Teaching in one of London’s hub schools, I have seen some of the biggest smiles on the faces of the young actors with whom I work with - especially in these trying times. For young people, being able to relate to and embody a character with completely different circumstances to their own, enables them to enjoy their own creativity through empathy and understanding, Through drama young people can act out problems, talk candidly about worrisome topics, and remain in a safe place.

Before the pandemic, we were concerned about the detrimental effects of the digital world can have on children, but ironically the advantages of digital during lockdown is that it has provided a conduit for social support. We access streamed performances in the comfort of our own homes. Whilst a theatre visit isn't possible, access to theatrical productions from companies like The National Theatre and Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group are available with a click to bring delight and relief to anxious audiences of all ages. This in turn keeps the interest in theatre alive, so that when the lockdown is over, the appetite to see live performances for real will still be there. It has the power to introduce theatre to groups of young people who may not normally choose to access live theatre for any number of reasons, from disadvantaged backgrounds to peer pressure.

When it is time for the country to tentatively exit lockdown, it is with regret that  theatres are probably going to be amongst the last places to reopen.

But when they do, the audience’s desire to be entertained will not have changed. Children will need the arts more than ever - especially after months of being isolated at home! This will see theatre do what theatre does best - creating a connection and immediacy you don't get on-line; allowing an audience to get lost in a story without interruption from the outside world - specifically your phone!; bringing family and friends together for a shared experience. And thrilling entertainment.

Long live theatre and live storytelling! No matter which form it may take in today’s world.

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4 Responses to “Live Theatre for Kids – How Digital Could Make a Difference.”

  • Janice Flatley says:

    Change is as good as a rest as times are changing with this virus. This must be like remote teaching for children living abroad.

  • Gerald Hoskin says:

    While obviously brought about by the virus this is forward thinking as I too have long felt that the ‘arts’ are greatly neglected in our schools. Let’s get all aspects of it back into the curriculum.

  • Annabel says:

    Hi all – great article, thank you. Check out – it’s an incredible resource for children’s theatre, made by theatre makers! No child should miss out, it’s all in one place so easy and quick to access, launched last week :)

  • It’s interesting to know abvotu how theater could bring families together while entertaining them. It’s been years since I last attended or watched a live performance, and it sounds like a great way to spend time with my family, so I’ll look into it right now. Thanks for describing how live theatre benefits young children.

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