Thursday, 21 January 2016

"Off to Neverland!" - our right royal adventure...

My sister - the Actress - got my daughter - the Girlchild - a most delightful Christmas present. A ticket to "Wendy & Peter Pan" at the RSC in Stratford. My sister - the Actress - having spent lots of money on said ticket, couldn't afford to actually get there... So I stumped up for 2 more tickets, grabbed the elder Boychild, and off we drove last Saturday to the RSC in Stratford upon Avon. Dahling.

Us lot (raggle taggle gypsies). To the Royal Shakespeare Company. I had so many preconceptions, including that it would be:
  1. Rrrrroyal
  2. Posh
  3. Stuffy
  4. Expensive 
  5. Serious
  6. Intimidating. VERY.  
  7. Not the kind of place for me
  8. Definitely not the place for kids
I was wrong.

But not on all counts, so let's get this out of the way first - it's expensive. It really is. And it's expensive to get to Stratford Upon Avon too (consider car pooling or booking a streetcar - trains from London are ridiculous). Ticketwise, based on advice from the Actress, ALWAYS CALL THE BOX OFFICE to find the best deals. Box office staff are often actors themselves, who know how to find the best deals, they'll be able to tell you what's available, the best seats for the lowest price, offers available etc. 

And so to the theatah. Oh, the theatah dahlings!

From the moment we walked in, we were swept up in the buzz. It's obvious that everyone's made a right royal effort to be there, it's a special day out, people don their Sunday best and the atmosphere is electric. The staff certainly seem to love their work, all smiles and twinkly eyed. Everyone - from the girl who gave us booster seats for the kids, to the man in the gift shop who complimented my 5 year old on his sword skills - was ace. They're proud to be there. Admittedly they were rather posh, but most definitely NOT stuffy ;) There's also a dressy up corner of the kids, a lovely cafe, a wishing fountain and a fabulous interactive exhibition space: FUN FUN FUN!
As we took our seats in the theatre itself, we were already entranced. It's basically a new take on Shakespeare's original Globe theatre, with seats up the walls and a round space for the stage. The sets are like what I would imagine Disney movie sets to be - obviously no expense is spared, everything is the best of the best and the detail is astonishing. (We spotted a tiny baby with it's head out of the upstairs window of the doll's house and a the Darling childrens' measurements drawn on the wall.)

It felt like we were IN the nursery with Wendy, Michael, John and their little brother Tom (a new addition to the cast of Darlings in this brilliant revision of JM Barrie's original Peter Pan, by playwright Ella Hickson). Myself, the Actress and the Boychild were in tears 5 minutes in and our "faces were raining" for the rest of the 2 and a half hour performance - with tears and laughter and every emotion in between. (Girlchild held it together surprisingly well, but she did squeeze my hand quite a lot and stood up to clap to bring Tink back to life...)

The story itself is really true to, but (in my opinion) better than, the original, totally in tune with modern audiences and just the kind of message I want my kids to be receiving. Smee's dappy for Hook, Wendy discovers she's a brave and capable leader, Mrs Darling is a sufragette(!), Tinkerbell's all 'uggable 'oxton in a tutu, Hook is off the hook - but the kids really couldn't pick a single favourite. This is top quality entertainment, the best of the best in everything from performance, to design, to music and production.

After the show, we hit the jackpot and got to meet Wendy, (Mariah Gale, friend of the Actress) and then go backstage with Smee (Paul Kemp, friend of the Actress). There are no words - the pictures speak for themselves....
Boychild has been playing "Wendy" ever since - the dough hook from my mixer commandeered along with a rather fetching leather coat of mine that I may never retrieve... Girlchild has been keeping tightlipped but says she has started writing her first play. Watch this space...

So, here's another list for you, based on direct experience this time. Taking kids to the theatre:
  1. Sparks their imagination
  2. Fills them with new ideas
  3. Broadens their horizons
Of all of this I have no doubt. I hope our #artscrusade might inspire you to do something #artyfarty with the kids you love. (Don't forget you can find inspiration for your own crusade on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter) With all the pressures on our teachers and the ever increasing focus on "core subjects" in our curriculum, these kind of opportunities to engage with the arts are getting fewer and fewer for kids. It's up to us to make sure they get their dose of culture and #artyfarty goodness. It's life enhancing.

Our day at the RSC will be etched in my memory - and in my childrens' - forever. It was worth every penny and the Actress, the Girlchild, the Boychild and I are going to make it an annual outing.

The Arts Crusader

#culturematters #artmakesyasmart

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