Auntie Janet Saves The Planet
Despite perceptions, young audiences can often be the toughest to entertain. But they’re also one of the most open, as writer Mark Robertson is gleefully aware. ‘It’s very liberating,’ he says. ‘Because there’s stuff you can do that you just wouldn’t get away with writing for adults. That’s one of the joys of working in children’s theatre and television – you can let your imagination run riot.’
A regular scriptwriter with CBBC and Cartoon Network, Robertson is also a dab hand at opera and musical lyrics, making him the perfect choice for Scottish Opera’s interactive show, Auntie Janet Saves The Planet. Aimed at 3–6-year-olds, the mini opera uses live action, animation and puppetry to create an endangered woodland populated by furry friends.
‘We specifically chose animals that were immediately recognisable to the children and whose habitats were in danger,’ explains Robertson. ‘Then created broad brush stroke characters – a nice aunty, a military man, a snooty old lady. We’re playing off traditional stereotypes, but the point is that they’re very different from each other, so the children know exactly what each character’s attitude is.’
Singing along with the songs isn’t just encouraged, it’s positively essential, and each child is sent a CD prior to the show to help them learn the words. ‘It allows them to become characters in the show itself,’ says Robertson. ‘Because the essence of Auntie Janet is that they go on a quest with the animals, and having their own lines in the songs keeps them involved in the drama. There’s also a little book you can download from the Scottish Opera website, which introduces the characters so the children feel part of that world before they even come in.’
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 19–Sun 21 Jun