Main image: Ric Liu, taken during a rehearsal of Nini in Changi Village
“There is really a shortage of quality Chinese language programmes for children,” says Artistic Director of The Theatre Practice, Kuo Jian Hong. With that in mind, it is heartening to know that Chinese language children’s theatre has always been a part of the M1 Chinese Theatre Festival ever since it started in 2011.
Then, the two family shows (out of six ticketed productions and a repertoire of free programmes) in the Festival’s line-up came from overseas theatre groups – one from Taiwan, and one from Hong Kong. Over the years, the Festival has evolved to involve local Chinese theatre talent as well.
“The Theatre Practice tries to create a homegrown piece, and in partnership with that, invite an overseas production,” explained Ms Kuo.
This year, one of the shows, Nini in Changi Village, is by The Theatre Practice. The play is a fun and energetic story about a young girl who grows up in Changi Village in the 1960s. Adapted from the autobiographical comic by local cartoonist Fanny Lai, it traces the journey of change that takes place as the kampong that Nini lives in gives way to development.
Mo Gu Notes, the other family production, is an intimate and fascinating puppetry show. In this production, Taiwan’s Mini Puppet Theatre plays with the idea of “small is big”. Using puppetry, shadow play, and mini objects, it explores the quiet, private, world of the toilet in a set inspired by the miniature curio cabinets of the Qing Dynasty.
According to Ms Kuo, Chinese language children’s theatre has always been a part of the festival: “Theatre is a great way for anyone to learn about the world, about ourselves, and about each other. For a child, theatre is also a place of wondrous imagination. It is important to us, the theatre makers, that we offer this fascinating world to our young audiences.”
Explaining, she said, “First, it’s about going to the theatre – it is a magical place that takes you on a journey of discovery. I don’t know any child who does not get curious and attracted when you take them to the theatre. When the light dims and the show is about to start, the sense of anticipation and excitement is the most wonderful thing!”
Indeed, the magic of theatre is hard to resist. The Theatre Practice’s young audiences “have been gradually growing over the last few years”, spanning the range from preschoolers to primary and secondary school kids.
Parents too, welcome the opportunity to let their children connect language and culture in a fun way – through Chinese language theatre. “Many people come because they wish to give their children more exposure to the language,” says Ms Kuo.
“However,” she adds, “Many more bring their kids to the theatre because once upon a time, when they were young, they experienced the wonderful world of theatre. Now, they want to share it with their children.”
Share the joy of theatre with your child! We have one pair of tickets to Nini In Changi Village (2pm show on Saturday, 5 July) and one pair for Mo Gu Notes (11am on Sunday, 13 July). Tell us by 30 June 2014 in the comments section below: “Where did Nini live in the 1960s?” and stand to win one of the sets of tickets!
Note: The shows are recommended for children aged five years and above. Nini in Changi Village is approximately one hour long with no intermission; Mo Gu Notes features miniature puppetry with 20 minutes of performance and 20 minutes of sharing (no intermission). Both productions take place at the LASALLE College of the Arts.