Day One at Baboró has passed, which means I’m right up in the personal space of My Happy Place, gorging myself at the buffet of theatre. Also, gorging myself at the breakfast buffet at Menlo Park Hotel,which is truly excellent.
Aside from the general splendour of the programme, one of the reasons why Baboró International Festival for Children is my favourite ever is on account of its excellent Delegate Programme. Theatre-makers who regularly attend city-wide festivals will know that they can be expensive and hard to navigate (geographically as well as interpersonally). After the expenses of accommodation and travel, you have the mounting cost of tickets, internal travel between shows and, in Ireland, the mounting costs of pints. And as an emerging or independent artist, who doesn’t have a big company name behind you, not only do you end up footing your own bills for all of the above, but you also can find yourself at Festival Hubs or artists nights on your own. Even for theatre extroverts, this intimidating situation can lead you to staring awkwardly into the middle distance or re-reading the programme until a vaguely recognisable face arrives, or until you cut your loses, sink your wine, and slink off into the night feeling like a real Séamy Gan Cairde.
Baboró, on the other hand, is incredibly affordable. At €60 per Delegate Pass, you get unlimited access to shows (that goes down to €35 if you’re a student or on the dole). I would regularly get tickets to eight to ten shows, attend two artists talks, two Delegate Nights, and drink three-to-four free pints per festival. And as everything happens in the jewel in the crown of Gaelic Cuteness – Galway, City of Tribes – the venues are close, easily walkable, well sign-posted and overwhelmingly wheelchair accessible.
Not only this, but the line-up is inspired. If you’re an old hat at children’s theatre, you will see many of the great Irish names premiering new work alongside exciting emerging companies, and the best that the European continent has to offer. If you’re new to children’s theatre, this is should be your first port of call. Yearly attendance at Baboró teaches you all you need to know, and who.
And finally, while the theatre is world class, so are the people. In my mind, one of the defining operational differences between children’s theatre sector and the grown-up theatre sector is interpersonal. Children’s theatre – being socially focused, truly wondrous, and universally undervalued as a practice – attracts very nice people who seem, by nature, to be amiable, community minded and less competitive. No one’s in it for the fame, let’s just put it like that.Resources are shared, new members are welcomed. Acquaintances quickly become friends. There are considerably less Harvey Weinstein’s or Michael Colgan’s per capita in children’s theatre – no one with any sense can claim to be part of a community devoid of predators, but I can claim to be in one comparitively lacking in them. This is a feature which is rare and unique in arts communities.
So, that’s my pitch for Baboró, should you be thinking of hopping a train, and it’s also my pitch for Theatre for Young Audiences, should you be thinking of giving it a whack, professionally. And in that vein, here are three excellent shows to catch a glimpse of if they pass through your town.
I don’t want to write arduous reviews of shows any more than you want to read them, so I include only the essentials below…
SKY – Teater Minsk (Denmark)
The Gist – An adorable dance piece for children 18 months to five years, based on the beauty and boisterousness of clouds and the sky.
Go if … You’ve / you’re a child aged 1-5
Avoid if … You’re irritated by children aged 1-5 making noise in the theatre (get off my blog, you ungodly bore)
Go if … You love dance, sensorial theatre, and being pulled around the room on a blanket by strong, Danish arms.
Avoid if … You don’t enjoy joy and have a thing against clouds (why, sad adult?)
Best Moment – A toddler stands up on her cloud to watch as a performer floats by, dancing close to said-toddlers eye level, so the little girl says ‘I STOOD BECAUSE MY BUM HURTS’.
TETRIS – Arch8 (Netherlands)
The Gist – A dance quartet mimic the game of Tetris in a geometric, physical performance which get’s the kids out of their seats.
Go if … You’ve got a class of primary school children at your disposal. This piece is great for young groups.
Go if … You like physical comedy with your dance. Tetris stops short of being guffawy-slapstick, but retains a childlike sense of fun.
Avoid if … You’re intimidated by children in large numbers and delightful anarchy (I told you to get out of here, you sham of a man)
Best Moment … The end. No spoilers.
HOW TO CATCH A STAR – Branar Téatar do Pháistí (Ire)
The Gist – A puppet show for 4-7 year olds based on the beloved book by award-winning Irish author Oliver Jeffers about a boy eager to catch his very own star.
Go if … I don’t really need to say much more that ‘Oliver Jeffers’ and most children and/or parents will understand why to go.
Go if … You value precision. This is pitch-perfect, slick puppetry and design without a hair out of place.
Go if … You want to see one of the best in the Irish industry.
Avoid if … I can’t think of a reason to.
Best Moment … The worm. Simple poetry in motion.