Small Worlds, a play for toddlers, played out like a dream sequence

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. Only children know what they are looking for,” reads a line from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

This formed the philosophy of the performance, Small Worlds by Joclecio Azevedo and Teresa Prima, held as part of the 2013 AHA! International Theatre Festival for children, presented by Circular Cultural Association, Portugal. “Children feel deeply. So you cannot pretend or hide. You have to be very real and that is the only way to perform,” explains Teresa. The play for toddlers, between 0 to 36 months, engaged the children in wondrous ways. You might wonder how toddlers could possibly understand a play. But had you watched the charming performance by Joclecio and Teresa, you would have been amazed. The babies were calm and relaxed. They responded to every movement and every sound with squeals, laughter and gurgling. The voices of the babies were in itself music to the ears. Some babies even crawled onto stage to experience the performance closely. Small Worlds was a 25-minute performance. But it seemed like a moment captured in eternity. There was no story. Only movements accompanied by soothing sounds, of the sea, of babies’ laughter, of soft music. “The performance is a shared experience,” says Teresa, with Joclecio adding that Teresa and he had fun creating this work. “Although we have performed 25 shows in Portugal and have been doing this work for two and a half years, we have enjoyed this performance every time. It is wonderful to put the whole Universe into this small world,” says Joclecio.

The scene in which a soft and large plastic sheet was transformed into a massive wave against a play of lights was fascinating.

Teresa says they experimented with simple things. “We have worked with simple concepts associated with learning. We added different locations to the play and created a sound scape with children’s voices and a music box,” explains Teresa. “The music is relaxing and calming, easy to stimulate their response,” says Joclecio.

Teresa says that creating the play was initially a challenge. “I have worked with children before, but have never done theatre for children,” she says. The duo researched a lot for the production. Joclecio points out. “We thought deeply over what sets would look like. And we hit upon the idea of it might look like a pop-up book. In our research we discovered that babies between 7 and 8 months old think in black-and-white.” Indeed, scientific research shows that babies respond to visual stimulus. And that was evident in the performance.

The interactive games after the performance were adorable. “We help them play with simple games and with each other,” says Teresa.

The duo also performed at AdiShakti in Pondicherry to an encouraging response. “I didn’t find any difference in the audience reaction between Portugal and India,” says Teresa. But Joclecio says the performance at Auroville was special because, “There was an immediate response. It was wonderful.”

The youngest audience member so far was a one-month-old baby. “But this piece is really for 0 to 100 year olds. We have had audience members as old as 90 and 98, who enjoyed the performance,” concludes Teresa.