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In Conversation with Nancy Black | LITTLE LEGENDS CHILDREN'S FESTIVAL

"I’m interested in placing children at the centre of the theatrical moment." Director Nancy Black speaks with us about her latest work for young audiences 'The Last Lighthouse Keeper' premiering at Theatre works as part of our inaugural Little Legends Festival.

Q: What interests you most about creating work for young people? A: Creating work for young people beckons myself and my fellow artists into a whole new world of imagination, nuance, curiosity expectation, and surprise. After all, we have grown up. We carry a lot of “baggage” from our years of living and surviving, and a perspective on reality that is alien to younger minds. The challenge I find exciting is to bring these worlds, these perspectives, together. How can we introduce young ones to some of life’s difficult themes, and through their engagement, find new pathways through? Increasingly, I’m interested in placing children at the centre of the theatrical moment: we provide a framework, ask questions, provoke, and their imaginations set off an action. They become creators alongside the artists!

Q: Where did the idea behind The Last Lighthouse Keeper come from? A: The idea for The Last Lighthouse Keeper sprang from writer Katie Reeve’s twofold concern: a) for refugees arriving in countries and cultures far from their own, encountering rejection and strangeness, and gradually finding a way through friendship to acceptance. And b) as a young mother, she is aware that discussing difficult topics such as death with young people is often taboo – refugees and settled peoples, leaving children, parents and teachers alike at a loss when wanting to talk and express their feelings. Katie feels that theatre can help overcome that taboo, and has crafted a work that approaches grief in an age appropriate way. It is filled with joy and emphasises resilience and the power of friendship to heal. Our experience with refugee children from many countries and with children across a broad demographic has confirmed that belief!

Q: Do you remember your first theatre experience? A: Oh my......I think it was creating what we would have to call a highly adapted version of Peter Pan with some of my friends – shown only to siblings and parents!

Q: What are some methods used in The Last Lighthouse Keeper to introduce young people to theatre making skills? A: We begin the show with the children making props, bits of costume (sailors’ hats) and parts of the set. Together they take a piece of blue cloth and create the “sea”. They then sit in the set – they are part of it. The artists have shown them how to use the cloth to create a stormy sea, and they will do that at particular points in the show. With their hats, they are also “costumed” like some of the characters. So we give the children a creative agency in the setting up of the show. As the narrative progresses, the characters interact directly with the children, forming relationships with them, sympathising, seeking solutions to problems like finding a lost object, comforting sadness, and celebrating joy. They are methods that involve the use of metaphor, the “suspension of disbelief”, and the complete engagement of the imagination.

Q: What can first time theatre goers expect from this show? A: I think this show is surprising in a most delightful way. There is a story that is both sad and joyful; it engages its audience in ever changing ways. The puppets and music are beautiful. People come away feeling wholly uplifted! THE LAST LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER By Katie Reeve | Directed by Nancy Black 20-24 September | Explosives Factory BOOK HERE

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