by Greta Clough, Artistic Director of Old Saw
I always think the way that puppeteers first approach a puppet or object is uncannily similar to the way babies play. A baby sees a ball and they don’t think to themselves ‘a ball, it works best if I throw it’, they think, ‘what is this? What does it do? How does it feel? How does it taste? What happens if I throw it? Kick it? Roll it? Does it bounce? Can I squish it? What happens when it moves fast? Slow? How does it fall?’. This is very similar to the approach a puppeteer has to a new puppet. The pulling and prodding, the turning and twisting. The persistent need to discover everything it can do, and to approach the puppet without preconceptions – ‘this is an arm therefore it moves like this’ – I don’t think like that. It’s not interesting and it doesn’t hold any surprises. And surprises – the unexpected – is what puppetry is all about. It’s about playing. And who understands the art of playing better than a baby?
I was Associate Artist at Little Angel Theatre when we began developing Duvet Day, a new theatre experience for babies. It was very important to me to create a show that wasn’t just about entertaining those under 18 months old – but to create a place where parents can also relax, take a breath, and enjoy being with their babies – rediscovering the world through their eyes.
When I had my daughter just under two years ago I felt like everything was an impossible struggle. Getting out of the house can be ridiculously difficult for many of us with small babies. It was so difficult to find things to do that were enjoyable for me as a parent, and suitable to attend with an infant. Too many events were over-crowded and chaotic, catering to early years – a much larger audience segment including children up to 6 years old – with very little concern for what it meant to be a baby, and an exhausted parent.
Out of necessity the baby would come with me to the rehearsal room. It was during these early months that the idea for Duvet Day took hold. The theatre had become a space where we could both relax and bond through the shared experience of creating. I wanted to create a space that other parents could enjoy with their little ones.
Each time we perform Duvet Day, I am struck by the simple beauty of parents and babies cuddled together on the floor, exploring the sound of a bell or collectively catching their breath as a simple blanket becomes a tree, a whale. The joy of shared imagination as a handful of cotton batting takes on the ever-changing life of a cloud, and the deeper shared emotions of the heartache and the pride we feel as parents as we watch our babies experience, learn, and grow – a process that begins as soon as they are out of the womb and will continue the rest of our lives. Of nurturing, and listening, and guiding, and trusting as your little one grows and gains independence.
I am so glad to be able to bring this production back to the UK. With cuts to children’s centres, libraries, and mother and baby support groups it is an important time to be supporting parents with small babies. There is a growing number of companies in the UK making work for the very young, and it is inspiring to see. I am very proud to be a part of a movement in theatre concentrating efforts on creating intelligent, sensitive, and inspiring children’s theatre for all ages – even babies.
Duvet Day is at Little Angel Theatre on 2 & 3 April. For performance times and tickets click HERE.