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Apr. 21, 2019 | Sunday
Entertainment News
The most wonderful time of the year
Tim Carroll in the Royal George Theatre. (Supplied)

This is the most exciting time of the year at The Shaw. The place is buzzing with creativity: at the Court House and the Festival rehearsal rooms, seven different plays are at different stages of preparation. At one end of the spectrum, Brigadoon and Rope are about to move into the theatre, while, at the other, Sex and The Glass Menagerie had their first read-throughs this week. A handful of shows, including Cyrano de Bergerac, will not even start rehearsal for another few weeks. Meanwhile, over in Virgil, our scene shop is putting the finishing touches to The Ladykillers and the prop shop is making a splendid wedding cake and much more for Getting Married. Creativity everywhere you look.

First on stage will be The Horse And His Boy. This show is especially close to my heart, not just because it is part of the Narnia series that I started last year with The Magician’s Nephew, but because it is aimed at family audiences, for whom I have always loved making theatre. This kind of programming is relatively new to The Shaw, having started with Peter and the Starcatcher a couple of years before I arrived, and I never had any doubt that I wanted to commit to it. In my first year we staged Wilde Tales, which was beautifully directed by Christine Brubaker; so this year I have asked her to tell the next chapter of the story of Narnia. The Horse And His Boy is a beautiful, romantic adventure story about a boy and a girl and the journey they have to undertake. The sets, which I have seen being painted in the paint shop, are breathtaking; and I know that, for all the time children spend in front of screens, they still get a unique buzz from sharing a space with live performers in the act of creation.

In each of our family shows since I started we have had an interactive element, with a special workshop before the performance giving the kids a chance to be involved in the telling of the story as it unfolds on stage. This has been one of our most successful innovations, and I have loved listening to the team coming up with creative ideas for how to make the experience of the show unforgettable.

I feel very passionate about this kind of work. The thrill of live theatre is a basic human need, one that all children should experience. It makes me rage when school budget cuts are targeted at the arts because, somehow, they are less ‘useful’ than other subjects. The assumptions behind such cuts are questionable on every level: do we educate people to be economically useful, or to be good citizens who can fulfil their human potential? And anyway, even if we are only preparing young people to join the workforce, what are employers and economists all saying we are going to need most in this rapidly-changing world?

Creativity.

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