Day 3 of Ubom! Eastern Cape Drama Company‘s production of Betti & the Yeti and loving it.
I love doing children’s theatre, I love the colour and the energy and the songs and the sweating.
I love that we get to tell stories and create childhood memories for the kids sitting in the audience.
I remember the first show I went to see as a child – I grew up in Vereeniging and when I was about 4 or 5, the Civic Theatre was showing a production of Peter Pan. It was fantastic. Two memories stand out very vividly – one is the fight scene on the ship, a life-sized ship that my child-mind cannot fully recapture, all I know is it was splendid, lots of swords and sounds and strobe lighting that completely boggled me; the second is the absolute empathy the performers stirred in me for the death of Tinkerbell – which, may I remind you, was merely a lightspot on the wall – and calling upon us to bring her to life by clapping, putting the power of life and death completely in our hands, so to speak.
Today, while the two hunters were rounding up Betti and her new friend, the Yeti, one of the children in the audience made the loud and accurate observation that the two had nothing to fear as the hunters hadn’t as yet been successful in loading the gun. Sparky Xulu, who plays Bubuza the Hunter, had to find one of the many bullets that they had previously been lobbing at the Yeti and hope and pray it would fit as he slid it down the barrel of the toy rifle. I’m glad to report the gun loading as successful.
The magic of children’s theatre is that untainted truth of response.
Nothing slips past them. And the feelings stirred in an audience of little ‘uns is the most honest you’ll find in any theatre. And as a performer, it’s rewarding to play.
It’s rewarding to play, seeing the manifestation of pure joy in a young boy who cannot sit still for all the excitement. It’s rewarding to play, having 300 voices screaching at you in response to a question. It’s rewarding to play the comedy when it riles up hysterical giggles, the suspense when they’re all yelling at you as one to “Look out the Yeti is behind you!!”, the moments when they’re quiet as death.
Children invest personally in a theatre show. They’re there with you every step of the way. And they’ll call you out if you haven’t got all your ducks in a row.
Because no one knows stories like a 5-year-old.