There’s a new theatre performance currently at the Young People’s Theatre. One Thing Leads To Another is created for babies. What? I know. I thought the same! Babies won’t understand, right?
But here’s the thing…babies are incredible. From the moment they are born we can’t help but be blown away but what these amazing little humans are capable of. From birth they are constantly absorbing the world around them with all their senses and we don’t need science to tell us that.
I was interested in seeing what this was all about and how babies would respond to theatre. I’m sure you could picture a room full of parents and babies and a performance happening. I expected restless babies and impatient parents. I expected crying and screaming. But instead I was surprised….and so were parents.
The babies ranged between the ages of 4 months to 12 months with a few toddlers in the audience. While sitting comfortably in the studio space on a floor full of colourful pillows and blankets the babies and their adults were invited to watch three performers on stage. At the beginning of the program, the adults were told that this is a very casual environment. If anyone needed to get up, feed, change your baby there’s even a private room behind the theatre space.
I had taken a seat in the back of the room (sans baby) to observe and it was pretty amazing to see how engaged the babies were to the performance. The theatre space was free from outside noises. The performers would flow through motions and sounds using props like red ribbons, large silk fabrics, bouncy balls, water jugs and everyday items. the babies were captivated during this performance. Absolutely mesmerized and it was beautiful to see.
There were no words spoken only sounds. At one point, shakers were handed out and the performer would walk up to each baby and shook the shaker. That’s all it took for the babies to mimic the action. When the performers got into a rhythm beating on household items the babies started to dance. No one told them to dance. It was pretty cool to see.
I spoke to one of the performers Maja Ardal just after this performance and she was quite thrilled with how the show is connecting with the babies. “It’s fun to see how the babies respond,” says Ardal. “With the toddlers some of them can respond with language but the parents of the little babies have been thrilled and amazed with their focus.”
What I had also noticed during this show was the natural instinct for the toddlers who can walk and the babies who could crawl wanted to reach out for items yet the parents had the urge to hold them back and a few times the performers whispered that it was okay when it was safe to do so.
“Yes, we tell parents that whatever your baby is doing is what they should be doing whether it’s crying, yelling or turning their back to the audience, we are okay with it. What ends up happening, and makes us happy, is that parents end up telling us that they were surprised that their babies weren’t that fussy after all!”
I didn’t see any fussiness with the babies! “Oh of course sometimes at the beginning of the show, the babies can be a little fussy but then when we start they seem to get quiet. And we’ve decided on certain scenarios to bring their attention…like peek-a-boo that is historically one of the most important games ever played with babies. You can actually look at it as a little play in itself. ‘Here I am! Now I’m gone…am I coming back?’ Yes! It’s like a little story is being told. But the way we sing and the way we flow from one thing to another we, the performers, check in with each other and stay flexible with the audience. We have a sense of the mood and energy level between each other to know what will work with the babies.”
One Thing Leads To Another is a collective collaboration by Maja Ardal, Audrey Dwyer, Mary Frances Moore and Julia Tribe. The show was developed from the original concept, research and theme by Maja Ardal. Directed by Mary Francis Moore.
The performance is now at Young People’s Theatre until February 21, 2016. Approximately 30 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of playtime.