Interview: Tony Reekie - director of Imaginate children's festival
The 2012 edition of the children's theatre festival has a strong international flavour
This article is from 2012.
He may spend most of his life scouring the world for quality children’s theatre, but even Tony Reekie finds time for a bit of Killing. The Killing, that is, not cold-blooded murder. A big fan of the Danish television crime series, Reekie was less impressed with the American re-make – for largely the same reason that drives his creative choices at work.
‘The original was just so Danish,’ says Reekie, ‘and because Denmark is a place I visit a lot, one of the reasons I enjoyed the programme was it gave a real sense of being from that particular culture.’ That feeling of losing yourself in another world, with a language, accent, viewpoint, even clothes that are somehow different from our own, is one of the great things about Imaginate.
This year, Reekie has invited companies from Australia, Sweden, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland, as well as England and Scotland to his festival. For him, it’s crucial that audiences get the opportunity to see life from another angle.
‘When you do any kind of international event, it’s really important that you allow your audience to explore the way different people and cultures approach ideas and stories,’ says Reekie. ‘And partly that’s about knocking ourselves out of our comfort zone – and I think children are very happy to be knocked out of their comfort zone, because they never really think they’re in one. But it’s good for them to see people who are clearly not doing things in their first language, and know that there’s a wider world out there.’
Reekie also talks about other countries giving ‘a new feel to a familiar story’, never more so than in Dutch theatre company Stella den Haag’s version of Rumpelstiltskin. ‘It’s a story a lot of people know and understand, but there’s a very distinct Dutch twist to it,’ says Reekie. ‘Not only in terms of the staging, but in the way they approach the story. It’s very playful, but it’s also very upfront about the journey the girl goes through – the series of tests she takes make her a stronger person, and I’ve never seen it captured in that way.’
There are 13 shows in this year’s Imaginate Festival, catering for babies as young as four months, right the way up to teenagers. The work itself couldn’t be more diverse, ranging from a gentle dance show for babies to a scary new version of Hansel and Gretel, viewed one person at a time via headphones and a torch in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
One thing all the works have in common, however, is they push the boundaries of what theatre can be, challenging both children, and the adults sitting next to them, to think about things in a different way. Part of that comes from the European content Reekie is always so keen to include.
‘You’re not going to do Death of a Salesman for five-year-olds, but to find what the equivalent of that would be is something I think we should always be searching for,’ says Reekie. ‘And I think a lot of European companies in particular are much more up for having a proper discussion with children, laying things out for them and letting the audience fill in the gap for themselves.’
Imaginate Festival, various venues, Edinburgh, Mon 7–Mon 14 May.