Look, a children’s play recently performed at Ranga Shankara, emerged from intensive research

The AHA! International Theatre Festival for children at Ranga Shankara concluded with Look, a production by Imaginary Theatre Australia for children between two and five years. “And their parents and guardians,” adds Thom Browning, the director.

The play was a simple story on friendship depicted in a creative way. “It is about two individuals who find themselves in a strange place. They overcome challenges, using play and creativity,” says Thom. The play emerged from intensive research. It was testimony to the magic theatre can have on children. Thom, Nathan Stoneham, Verena Curr and sound and light operator Mark Middleton deliberated over how they would work the play together. They were inspired by scientific research that suggests that the early years are crucial for “cognitive, emotional and social development.” Thom collaborated with both Nathan and Verena, and together created Look that debuted in 2012 and toured to South Korea for the 2012, ASSITEJ Korea Summer Festival. “We integrated play, learning and the mechanics of play. Look is about how children explore the world. It was an incredible experience,” says Thom.

“We ended up looking at characters and personalities of children and observed that they respond to three types of play — the sensory, dramatic and constructive. We incorporated these elements into our production,” explains Verena.

Nathan adds the best part of creating the production was improvising. “We ourselves played and discovered each of our personality traits. As our focus is on education, we ensured that we treat the children as capable and creative.”

The artists enjoyed co-creating the work. “It’s my favourite way to work,” says Nathan, smiling. Music was an essential part of the production. It added to the mood of the play. “Nathan and I decided on the music, some of which is original,” says Thom. Imagination also played an important role in the play. “Through their imagination, the characters transform the place they are in,” says Nathan.

They chose to stage the play at Ranga Shankara because of the success of the Oz fest in India and the response that Saltbush, an Australian theatre production performed in last year’s AHA! Festival, received.

Going by the success of this year’s AHA! International Theatre Festival for children — evident from the ecstatic responses from the children — it is hoped that theatre will inspire learning among children.