IT WAS a slightly daunting prospect to say the least. The nerve-wracking combination of my three-year-old daughter sitting in a darkened room surrounded by quiet theatre-goers.
After all, this was Evie we were talking about – the girl who struggles to finish a jigsaw without jumping down to feed one of her dollies or make a cup of tea in her toy kitchen.
So when we ventured to the Lawrence Batley Theatre last Saturday morning for The Elves and The Shoemaker, we were both pleasantly surprised.
As we joined the small queue of other bubbly children and toddlers, a wave of relief swept over me – my girl was not going to be the only one making the noise.
The production was held in the Cellar as part of the children’s Imagine series which takes place at LBT every month.
A small, intimate audience of around 100 people gathered on mats, benches and comfy chairs to enjoy some of the best-known (and not so well-known) tales using techniques from children’s theatre, storytelling, puppetry and music.
The Imagine performances have been running at LBT since September 2007 and have become hugely popular, attracting a regular family following.
Aimed at children between the ages of two and 10, they encourage youngsters to use their imaginations and get involved in the shows.
And in a world where children are constantly being bombarded with television and computer games and told how to play it was refreshing as a parent to rediscover what amazing little minds they really have.
LBT director Victoria Firth said: “There is something about being here and it being live that is so compelling.
“It isn’t like TV, it is something that is happening here and each performance is a different experience with a different audience.
“It is like opening up a box of delights, like discovering your own bit of treasure.”
As the lights went down, Evie’s eyes widened, obviously bewildered by the whole experience.
The show – staged by Objects Dart – was performed by just one man, Drew Colby.
Using a variety of objects, from a feather duster to a peg and an old shirt, Drew engaged wonderfully with his young audience to build a very convincing Shoemaker puppet as the main character.
The story of the poor hardworking Shoemaker then began to unfold, spurred on by the vibrant involvement of young audience members.
Next, umbrellas and lights were used to create object shadows. The children were amazed to see how different objects looked as shadows, especially when the little Elves made their appearance.
Much to Evie’s disappointment, they didn’t talk, but had their own squeaky language as they busied the night away making shoes as the Shoemaker slept.
With little songs and rhymes repeated throughout, the magical story really left an impression on the youngsters – so much so that most of them were still chanting them on the way out.
For Evie, the performance was a huge success. She sat quietly – absolutely spellbound by the whole experience – and had many, many unanswered questions about elves!
As a parent, it was rewarding to see my child’s imagination at work and watch her interact with something as a simple as a feather duster.
It restored my belief that children can, in fact, make their own fun out of literally anything.
Live theatre, in my view, has something very different to offer children.
And for that reason, we’ll be heading there again next month when The Ugly Duckling takes to the LBT stage on May 9.
Other performances in the Imagine series include Tale Traders – The Magic Story Stall on April 18 and If Only The Lonely Were Home on May 27.
For more information, contact the LBT box office on 01484 430528.