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Carnival of the Animals 03_Photo by Justin Nicolas, Atmosphere Photography

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