Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Wed 20–Sat 23 Feb, then touring
When Virginia Radcliffe decided to write a show about play, she knew her imagination would only take her so far. That if she wanted to capture the fantastical worlds most children enter on a daily basis, there was only one place to go – her target audience.
For the past seven years, the artistic director of Licketyspit theatre company has regularly got down on her hands and knees and played with early years children. And by finding out what makes them shriek with excitement or cower with fright, Radcliffe has built up a loyal following of families across Scotland, who lap up every show Licketyspit produces – from Molly Whuppie to Wee Witches.
With Heelie-go-Leerie, a show about games, rhymes and imaginary play, gathering input from children has been more important than ever. ‘There’s a huge connection between the way children play and making a play for children,’ says Radcliffe. ‘And we all like to play – both adults and children – but the very word “play” sounds like something light and trivial, which of course it’s absolutely not.’
Heelie-go-Leerie centres on three children who occupy a world where busy lives have rendered play non-existent. Living beneath a ‘big roof’ which protects them from the thick smoke above, the children discover a crack which only they can fill. These are potentially big themes for 3–7–year-olds to grasp, but Radcliffe is convinced the show’s style will carry them along.
‘Little children are very good at finding their way through things,’ she says. ‘And what they’ll see is a group of children who become friends, play together and solve a problem. The show also has lots of rhymes, live music and imaginary play – which kids love.’