Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival

Young Reekie

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Imaginate Festival

Kelly Apter discovers how toddlers and teenagers will benefit from Tony Reekie’s new-look theatre festival

For years, the Bank of Scotland Children’s International Theatre Festival was something of a tongue-twister. Getting the words in the right order was no mean feat – even for Festival director, Tony Reekie. ‘I always got Children’s and International mixed up,’ he admits. ‘So it’s much easier being called the Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival.’

Making life less complicated for Reekie is only one reason behind the name change, however. By eliminating the word ‘Children’s’ from the title, Reekie has been able to open up the Festival to a slightly older audience. And, for the first time, a show for ages 14+ is on the bill. Written by David Greig and performed by TAG Theatre, Yellow Moon is a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde tale about two teenagers on the run. ‘For me it’s about responding to the work that’s out there,’ says Reekie. ‘And Yellow Moon is a really strong piece of Scottish theatre for young people.’

Aimed at ages 12+, Beuysband, by Belgian theatre company Kopergietery, also caters for that oft-ignored age-group. ‘Teenage audiences tend to get quite educational work made for them,’ says Reekie. ‘The kind of let’s-pass-an-exam type of theatre, which is a shame. But Beuysband is much more appealing – it talks about being young and how people view you, in a very thrilling way.’

At the other end of the spectrum, Reekie is also looking after very young children. Pre-schoolers are often forced to tag along to shows designed for older siblings, rather than ones tailor-made for tiny minds. Not any more. This year’s festival has three shows for ages 2+, one for 3+ and We Dance, Wee Groove – a fun, interactive ‘club’ for ages 0–4. ‘One of the things we try and do as a festival is create trends,’ says Reekie. ‘But we also follow what’s been happening elsewhere, and there’s been a big movement across Europe looking at work for very young children.’

For Reekie, scouting Europe for good children’s theatre is all in a day’s work. Knowing which shows will appeal to toddlers, however, isn’t easy. ‘As an adult, it’s easier to understand the shows for slightly older children,’ explains Reekie, ‘because they have structures and emotional journeys. But with work for the very young, it’s slightly different, because their brains are just forming. So I try to be very aware of how an audience responds to a show – if I’m having a great time but they’re heading for the door, I probably shouldn’t book it.’

For those inbetween toddlers and teenagers, Reekie has programmed eight diverse shows hailing from Italy, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Denmark. These include Scamp Theatre’s superb rendition of Michael Morpurgo’s Aesop’s Fables, Catherine Wheels’ moving true story, The Lion of Kabul, a comic opera for children called Next Door and an intimate performance for 15 people set in a flea circus.

‘It’s just bonkers really,’ says Reekie of The Flea Pit. ‘I try to offer a whole range of emotions at the Festival, but one of the things I want is for people to have a good time and a good laugh – and The Flea Pit is one of the pieces that does that.’

Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival, Sat 24 May–Mon 2 Jun. See listings for details or visit www.imaginate.org.uk

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