In the constellation of theatre-making, baby theatre is a completely different planet. If you accidentally stumble upon it, it might all seem a bit random and meaningless – monochromatic, ritualistic, non-verbal, exaggerated, overly concerned with boxes, or textures, or simple objects. But the most startling thing you’ll find is that all babies almost uniformly do actually respond to such nebulous things. It’s no wonder it is so hard to get right!
There are remarkably few theatre shows for 0-24month olds on offer in the UK and, ten years after starting out as a small experiment, Scotland’s Starcatchers have grown to become one of the country’s most distinguished.
Their latest offering Hup is a collaboration with Royal Scottish National Orchestra and a result of a six-month long residency with babies in Aberdeen focusing on their response to classical music and live performance. Featuring three musicians and a dancer, the show is described as ‘relaxed and comfortable’ and, judging by the audience response (from both parents and babies), it did live up to its own description. Although non-narrative, the piece has a simple structure which could be read as a project of transformation, instigated and led by the central ‘character’, Raccoon, keen to make the world around her more in her own image – black and white. It is playful, it is friendly, it is bright and cheerful, and it also puts the audience in a configuration which could facilitate friendly interaction among them.
In the best possible tradition, the musical content is both subtle and fundamental to the dramaturgy of the piece. It governs the mood and varies the pace in the room for the duration of the show which consists of a 25 minute performance and 20 minute playtime. The babies get to experience the props first-hand – black and white cones and ribbons and paper birds – objects you may not have thought to offer to your baby till now, but which might give you inspiration for future playtimes. And if that weren’t enough, Starcatchers will also send you away with a CD of the music from the show (if you happen to have a CD player at home!).