Children’s chatter and playtime fun form the premise for a brand new show at Wimbledon’s Polka Theatre.
Award-winning director Sarah Argent, 52 from Cardiff, held workshops and recorded conversations with nursery and primary school children while researching for her latest show, ‘My Brother, My Sister and Me,’ which is running at the popular south west London venue until February 11.
Every word within the script originates from these workshops including a line scripted for the character Brother which came from a conversation between Sarah and a little boy about hide and seek, where the little one said: “Actually the best place to hide is in Belgium.”
Sarah recalled: “I didn’t want to ask questions, it’s such a beautiful image and certainly gets the biggest adult laughs in the show.”
During Sarah’s workshops, held with associate director Jo Belloli, recurring topics such as sharing bedrooms, bunk beds and sibling relationships emerged when the children were asked to draw pictures and tell stories about their families and the idea for the show was born.
‘Echo the gecko,’ arguably the show’s most memorable phrase, which encourages children to play with words through the characterisation of Brother’s cuddly toy and best friend Gecko, was also a result of the pair’s research.
The toy was discovered in a second hand shop on Wimbledon High Street and Sarah took it to a Polka Theatre workshop where the children loved playing with the word ‘gecko’ and pretending to stick to walls and catch flies with their tongues.
Lots of movement within the show is based on the movements of the children at these groups who were asked to imagine themselves as geckos, sharks and snow wolves.
With decades of experience, Sarah understands how to engage with children and what they enjoy, and the show is structured to encourage young audiences to comment and repeat things.
Sarah said: “There will be moments where the children in the audience will be giggling from their bellies with laughter and then they’ll realise something dramatic has happened.
“Sister does something wrong and these little ones immediately know that’s not what she should be doing and they either go very quiet or sometimes shout out and say Brother will come back.
“They sit wide-eyed, following the emotions and situations the characters find themselves in, commenting throughout, and it’s that level of engagement with the story which is just a delight to watch and to hear.”
The set design includes a grey sparkly carpet that extends from the characters’ bedroom onstage into the audience, which the children sit on, giving the feeling they are also in a cosy bedroom close to the stage, immersed in the production.
Sarah compared the experience to watching a film because of the proximity of the children to the actors, who stay behind to meet them after performances with Gecko, which children like to stroke.
Sarah has personal family memories at Polka Theatre and said: “When I first took my niece when she was four, she’s now 24, she said I don’t want to go home, I just want to live here forever.”
Through magic and mayhem, the show highlights the ups and downs of sibling relationships through protagonists Brother and Sister, played by adult actors, who explore pertinent themes of sharing, socialisation and coexistence when their characters have to share a bedroom after a new baby enters the family, and runs until 11th Feb 2018.
In January, the pioneering director of young theatre will return to the Unicorn Theatre in south London to revive Seesaw, a show Sarah took to Jordan to be performed in Arabic in 2016.
Seesaw explores the balance of friendship between a boy and girl who meet in a sandpit over the course of a year.
Featuring a real sandpit, an oversized seesaw and adult actors who play children, the film director describes this piece as a metaphor for the need to work together in a relationship.
Sarah has collaborated with theatre companies worldwide and her next overseas venture includes baby theatre in India.