Keira Dulake (@keiradulake20) writing for the Musical Theatre Appreciation Society.
Calling all Mums, Dads, Grandparents, Godparents, Aunties, Uncles, older siblings, or anyone who just loves children’s theatre! This blog is all about the kids! I’m going to give you a quick insight into the best way to get children into theatre, recommendations and age restrictions and much more. Let’s run this…
When I was younger, as far as I can remember back which is probably around the age of 5, my parents always, without fail took me to a pantomime every year. But as far as theatre went, this is all I ever knew until my 13th Birthday when I asked to see Wicked. Theatre wasn’t something that was pushed at my school, it was more of a requirement in KS3 than it was a hobby or something to enjoy. Sure, I knew who Shakespeare was and I’d read Romeo and Juliet too many times and still couldn’t comprehend what on earth was happening. But I was lucky in that theatre had kind of been introduced to me at a younger age, (in a Year 6 musical of The Three Little Pigs). It wasn’t much, but it is a lot more than what children know of theatre now days. The arts are something I believe to be really important in growing up. It helps children find their likes and dislikes, find their passions and for some, it even drives a career. Theatre is a huge cultural aspect of living in England, especially if you’re based near London. People travel across the world to come and visit the West End, and I think it’s often something that is overlooked because we live within a close proximity of it all. Children aren’t really told how iconic theatre is as part of England, and it shouldn’t be overlooked or taken for granted. The children are the next generation, and in 20-30 years’ time, it’ll be them rigging those lights or standing up on those stages. Perhaps there should be more on the curriculum? If you think this is the case for your child at school, or even yourself, there are always other options! Google is your best friend when it comes to finding a club, choir, Stage Coach, dance school…the list goes on. My advice to anyone wanting to get involved with theatre classes or similar is that the first is always the scariest, after that, they get more and more fun every week.
One thing that perhaps puts people off taking children to the theatre is the cost of it. It can cost you an arm and a leg, say for instance if a family of 5 wanted to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at £65 per ticket. But it doesn’t have to! There are plenty of options for cheaper, sometimes even free theatre aimed at the younger generation. Why not check out your local theatre? I am currently the Stage Manager on an immersive piece of Dinosaur themed theatre with my local theatre G Live, which is totally free. This is not unusual if you know where to look! It doesn’t have to be strict ‘sat down and watch a show for 2-3 hours’ kind of theatre, as many younger children don’t have the concentration for that. Immersive theatre is a great alternative and there’s always loads going on. My personal pick of the month would be Adventures in Wonderland, which is specifically created for children aged 5-10, as a younger version of the full show ‘Alice’s Adventures Underground’. It’s a totally immersive show, with fabulous reviews and is a lot of fun for the younger ones. I shall put the link at the bottom of the blog for anyone
wanting to check it out!
One thing I have noticed crop up a lot is parents not knowing what is age appropriate for their child. Most shows do have age recommendations, many have been asking about this for shows such as Hamilton and Book of Mormon recently. I’ve taken this statement direct from the Hamilton website which states ‘Since HAMILTON contains some strong language, the show is appropriate for ages 10+. Children under 4 are not permitted into the theatre. Children under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult.’ This means that ultimately, it is your choice as to whether you think the content will be appropriate will be suitable for your child. Appropriate for ages 10+ means, yes you could take a 9 year old if they are accompanied by an adult, but you may not want to. As a parent or guardian, it’s probably best left up to your own judgement as to what you want your child to see/hear, and if you think it won’t be appropriate, it may be best to leave it. There’s a lot of other stuff out there that is age appropriate! I know that if was taken to see something such as Les Mis at the age of 10, I’d have had no clue what was going on! Also it is important to take in behaviour when considering a long show. I am all for children seeing theatre, but it is important that they know what is expected when you go to a big West End production such as Wicked, the audience around them have all paid a fair amount of money and don’t want to be disturbed by chatting, fidgeting or eating. (This also goes for adults!). Recently there has been so many experiences of bad theatre etiquette in the theatre, that if we teach children from a younger age, hopefully this will improve!
School of Rock – This is an energy packed, fun loving feel good musical. I would perhaps recommend this to slightly older children, starting around the age of 7/8 as there is a tiny bit of bad language. The music is very loud and if you sit in the stalls, you can feel the floor shaking from all the jumping! http://uk.schoolofrockthemusical.com
Wicked – This is perhaps one of the more popular musicals on the West End. It is definitely a great first musical if you’re not really too sure what to pick. However there are some loud bits in it, and some younger viewers may find bits a little scary, so again I’d say from around 7/8. http://www.wickedthemusical.co.uk
Aladdin – I haven’t actually seen this one so I can’t give an age recommendation, however I’ve heard good things and know it is definitely child suitable! http://www.aladdinthemusical.co.uk
The Lion King – Now this I LOVED! It is very clever in terms of puppetry, and if you have a Disney fanatic on your hands, get yourself down to the Lyceum now! The theatre say that this is suitable from 3 years upwards, providing the child can stay seated and not be a distraction to others. Personally I’d recommend from about 6 years, just so they appreciate the show a tad more. https://www.thelionking.co.uk
Joseph – This one I caught at G Live a few weeks back and loved! This one I would say is suitable from ages 3+ and there’s even a little dance opportunity at the end. It’s a burst of colour and such fun for the little ones! http://www.josephthemusical.com/uktour/
Wind in the Willows – This is going to be hitting the London Palladium from June to September and will great fun for the little cherubs. Check out their website for more info! http://windinthewillowsthemusical.com
Matilda – This show is totally adorable and has a great cast made up of children. I would actually recommend this at around the age of 8, as there are some scarier parts to it so if your child is particularly timid, I’d avoid this till an older age. http://uk.matildathemusical.com
Alice Underground – This is one I mentioned earlier, 100% worth checking out this immersive piece. Opening in April 2017 and is suitable for ages 5-10. If you’re older than this, check out the main attraction at the same venue, Alice’s Adventures Underground. https://www.alice-underground.com/aiw
So, there we have it! Phew…that was a lot of information at once. Let me know what you think, and if you have any local events coming up soon for children’s theatre, don’t forget to share them on the Facebook page!