Children’s Theatre in the UK: Practitioners and Researchers

The Children’s Theatre Research Network is happy to announce a new publication.

Theatre for Young Audiences: A critical handbook, will be available from January 2013. The contributors are Gill Brigg, David Broster, Dominic Hingorani, Jeanne Klein, Tom Maguire Geoffrey Readman, Matthew Reason, James Reynolds, Karian Schuitema, Peter Wynne-Wilson, Jan Wozniak and Oily Cart’s Tim Webb. The foreword is written by David Wood.

The volume collates new and original work on a range of topics important to the field of theatre for the young. It includes chapters on theatre and ownership, active spectatorship and audience interaction, as well as focusing on specific young audiences, such as audiences with profound disabilities, non-verbal audiences and teenagers. The book considers creative methods such as using ‘child’s play’ to create plays for the child, as well as the development of understandings concerning the young audience’s perception of work created for them, using interviews and the child’s drawings. Contributions deal with the questions of how to connect teenagers with Shakespeare’s work and how theatre can engage with children in a globalised and multicultural society. Additionally, chapters consider the work for young audiences staged by the National Theatre and the current status of Theatre in Education in the UK.

Due to the wide range of topics, this edited collection will appeal to academics, students and theatre practitioners working within the field of theatre for the young. Also educators interested in the benefits of school related theatre visits and the young audiences’ engagement with performances created specifically for them, would find the book a rich source of information. This publication can be recognised as part of a growing interest in theatre for young audiences as an academic topic.

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Please click here for a flyer and order form

About the Children’s Theatre Research Network

When the Children’s Theatre Research Network was first established in 2009 the lack of comprehensive research into this area was particularly contrasted by the high number of quality performances for young audiences found in the UK. Various companies and individuals write, create and perform only for this audience and therefore have contributed and enriched the field with new visions and approaches towards entertainment and art for the young. Dedicated theatres such as Polka Theatre, Unicorn, and Halfmoon, as well as those with a separate branch for younger audiences such as Lyric and Tricycle, have been vital in making theatre accessible and promoting original work of high artistic quality. International collaborations and exchanges, encouraged by organisation such as ASSITEJ International, ensured that theatre for young audiences enjoys worldwide influences and innovations.

Although the productions of these theatres and companies are created through a deep understanding of children and young people, and often use audience observations as well as workshops in which feedback can be given and performances can be developed in accordance to what this audience likes to see on stage, this type of research is not often published and made widely available. In addition, although the field is certainly developing and growing, children’s theatre still remains undeservingly underdeveloped in terms of creating an academic and critical understanding of the topic.

The Children’s Theatre Research Network therefore continues to focus on critical and theoretical appreciations of children’s theatre. It aims to elevate the study of children’s theatre to the level of other theatre studies, as well as bring together both academics and practitioners with an interest for research into theatre for the young. Hopefully this will connect both practical and academic fields and motivate collaborations that will benefit both approaches. By highlighting current projects and publications, those active within the field can begin establish a network to support and gain from each other’s understanding of the topic of children’s theatre. Next to the edited collection the Children’s Theatre Research Network organised an international conference titled Theatre for a Young audience in the UK at the University of Westminster in 2010. It is looking to organise a similar event in the near future.

If you are interested in this project and would like to contribute to the site by adding a blog piece, reference to a project, paper or publication, please email me a short extract briefly outlining your work.

Although this is a UK based initiative, it is not intended to restrict the discussions and contributions to issues solely regarding UK theatre. Instead this site has been designed to encourage worldwide engagement with the theoretical and practical work that is taking place within the area of theatre for young audiences. The exchange of idea’s, projects and publications across borders, disciplinary or otherwise, will be essential to establishing an informative and supportive network that is necessary to encourage the need to study theatre for young audiences.

Dr Karian Schuitema, Children’s Theatre Researcher: