There is a question that has been rattling round my head: why is it that cinephiles can so happily and publicly admit to the adoration of children’s films — half of Pixar and Ghibli’s market seems to be grown-ups splattering the world with acclaim that they’re more than just kiddie fodder — and yet theatregoers seem to shrink from attending, let alone advocating for, children’s theatre?
Wellington is home to Capital E, the national theatre for children, and their work is easily comparable on all fronts to the best of both the aforementioned Pixar and Ghibli, so frankly us windy city theatre fans have very little excuse for our visible invisibility when it comes to work for all the family. This excuse shrinks even more this month as Capital E are running their biennial National Arts Festival — they call it “NZ’s Biggest Arts Festival for Children”, and I don’t see anyone arguing with that — from 7 to 21 March all across town.
It kicks off on the 7th with local clowning genius Thom Monckton’s Caterpillars in Circa One. Monckton has more than earned his stripes as a genius maker of the funny, and it will be a special treat to see what he does with a bigger space and younger audience in Caterpillars.
There are works from at least six local companies in the festival, including returning favourite from festivals past Java Dance, whose Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients will surely prove to be as nimble and magical as all their other pieces for younger audiences. Java Dance are a national treasure no matter what audience they’re performing for.
But it’s not all local. We’re getting the best stuff from across the globe as well. Carnival of the Animals, from Australian theatre company Circa (no relation to the Wellington Circa), has been getting raves everywhere it goes, and Wellington is lucky enough to be next in line. A co-production between Australian Barking Gecko Theatre Company and the Scottish Windmill Theatre Company brings us The Ballad of Pondlife McGurk, which, if you’re as much a fan of silly names as I am, is sure to be a hit based on its title alone.
For two weeks Wellington will be home to the very best of children’s theatre, both local and overseas. Not just great-for-kids great but great-for-everyone great. With so many options, there will be something for everyone: kids and grown-ups.
And it’s not all theatre — though you’ll forgive me for focusing on theatre in a theatre column — there are many other activities going on in those two weeks for the young and old alike. For more information, go to capitale.org.nz/national-arts-festival.