Interview: theatre maker Chris Goode on verbatim piece Monkey Bars
The Fringe First-winning show has adults performing kids' testimony on subjects from sweets to domestic violence
‘Something that’s been bugging me for years is that whenever we see children on stage, they’re playing the roles of what adults think children are. I wanted to see what would happen if we just cleared out some space for children themselves to be heard.’ That was the starting point for London-based theatre maker Chris Goode’s Monkey Bars, premièred to acclaim at the 2012 Fringe and now on a national tour.
Goode’s method is simple: to deliver children’s speech verbatim, but to hear it from the mouths of adult actors. Transcribing and editing 11 hours of recorded conversations with primary-aged children (‘it nearly killed me: those were the two most intense weeks of my adult life!’), he came up with short scenes covering everything from favourite sweeties to domestic violence; all delivered with due faithfulness to the kids’ perspectives on life.
The results range from the hilarious to the strikingly perceptive to the deeply touching – and they trigger arresting parallels with grown-up situations, too. ‘It reminded me that kids can be just as diverse, as confused, as radical and as conservative as adults,’ Goode adds. ‘It feels like we’re getting somewhere close to seeing kids for who they are rather than who we want them to be.’
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 31 Oct–Sat 2 Nov; The Arches, Glasgow, Tue 5 & Wed 6 Nov.