Producing children’s theatre

  • 08
  • Aug

Islington resident and theatre producer Rina Gill thinks all children should get the chance to go to the theatre. She has been working with Islington libraries to run a Draw the Snark competition to promote her latest show, The Hunting of the Snark, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poem. The competition was recently launched at Lewis Carroll Library with pupils from Copenhagen School. Here she explains more.

“Islington is my cultural watering hole. I’ve lived in the borough for over a decade and it has inspired and nourished me through many different stages of my adult life.

Having gone through the looking glass and entered the world of theatre production I’m more aware than ever of the many world-class venues on my doorstep and the incredible work being done by the Little Angel Puppet Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, the New Red Lion Theatre and The Almeida (where our production of Ingmar Bergman’s Through A Glass Darkly made its world premiere in 2009).

My daughter Amahra attends a local Islington school. Like many five year-olds she is a tough critic and won’t tolerate being patronised. By entering her world we got to see what works for her, what makes her laugh, what transports and moves her and what resonates with other children in the audience. We see the magical possibilities of the genre and how it encourages young audiences to imagine a different world whilst gently educating with a small ‘e.’

My husband (who’s been a theatre producer for 25 years) was busy with his many productions of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Musical. As a bit of a dare one day, he suggested we take on a smaller scale show so that I might learn the producing ropes.

I had just completed a fulfilling decade in publishing – the last few years spent launching two new publishing start-ups and a literary festival had been especially fun. I’d also had a short-lived and undistinguished career as a solicitor, so had learned early on not to be afraid of changing direction.

Around about the same time, a colleague came to us with an idea – her close-knit group of friends had put together a children’s show and were toying with the idea of taking it to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We took the script home that night. As I read it, I found myself laughing helplessly out loud. It was genuinely funny, wonderfully original and infectiously anarchic. More importantly, I just knew my daughter would find the wit and silliness funny too! The script contained the spirit of Lewis Carroll, but was very bold and modern.

We made the decision there and then to raise the money, develop the show, improve the production values and schedule a UK tour – to produce Snark for a mainstream audience in the UK and abroad.

The Hunting of the Snark is an exhilarating ecological fairy-tale about a lonely child trying to connect with his banker Dad. It is about emotional intelligence and courage, friendship and family, and the importance of protecting – not hunting our beautiful creatures. Whether you’re Alice of Islington or Alice in Wonderland these are universal themes all wrapped in a hilariously funny, joyful, fast-paced show bursting with a soundtrack of witty songs.

We have invited every child that took part at that Lewis Carroll Library special event to come and join us at the Snark premiere at the Vaudeville Theatre. I wish the government would make theatre visits for schools a firmly established part of the curriculum – the numbers of children being taken to the theatre are falling year on year and that really saddens me. I like to think that in some small way in our own community, we are doing something to reverse the decline.

Lewis Carroll, the author of the original poem published 141 years ago, decided not to describe the Snark – preferring instead to leave it to our imaginations. Islington Libraries and our company RGM Productions are launching a Draw A Snark competition. We hope to see as many entries as possible for a chance to win a family ticket to the premiere at the Vaudeville Theatre on 28 July.”

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