Edinburgh International Children's Festival reveals its 2018 programme

Edinburgh International Children's Festival reveals its 2018 programme

We Come from Far, Far Away tells the true story of two 15-year-old boys who travel from Syria to Norway / credit: Premysl Bukovsky

Theatre for young people should reflect the world they're growing up in, says director Noel Jordan

Look for a theme in this year's Edinburgh International Children's Festival, and you won't find one. Artists, says director Noel Jordan, 'are making work in response to the experiences around them – and that's so diverse.' So what you will find, in amongst clever stagecraft designed to entertain young people, is work that counts. Work that says something to an audience which, like a sponge, is soaking up and processing everything it sees as it learns about the world.

For his second year in the curating saddle, Jordan has taken that responsibility very seriously. The 14 shows from 12 countries he has selected all have an obvious appeal on a surface level, but dig deeper and you'll find stories of migration, climate change, gender, bereavement, friendship, cultural difference – in short, the stuff of life and death. 'There's been a real response to migration – I've seen so many pieces on that subject,' says Jordan. 'But the one I felt was most appropriate for our audience, is NIE's We Come From Far, Far Away, which tells the real story of two 15-year-old boys who travel alone from Aleppo across the sea and mainland Europe to Norway. It's told in a very matter of fact way, but the reality of what they go through is unimaginable.'

Even the shows for younger audiences such as Loo, a work for 2–5-year-olds by Spanish company Ponten Pie, have something to say, using a stage full of sand to gently illustrate global warming. Or Things to Wear for ages 2–6 by Germany's Theaterhaus Ensemble, which finds a male and female performer taking on different roles as they change outfits. Well-known characters such as Henny Penny and Foxy Loxy are given a new twist in A Feast of Bones, a show for ages 9–15 by Ireland's Theatre Lovett, while Gretel and Hansel, by Canada's Le Carrousel, gives 6–10-year-olds a chance to view the folk tale differently.

Edinburgh International Children's Festival reveals its 2018 programme

Le Carrousel's Gretel and Hansel / credit: Leif Norman
'It's the story of Hansel and Gretel, but from Gretel's perspective,' explains Jordan. 'Gretel is a young girl who's thinking how do I feel about my sibling? They're taking the spotlight from me, I have to make space for them and look after them. But through that sibling rivalry comes a realisation that she needs and loves him. And I think these are emotions that young children experience, but don't have the opportunity to verbalise.'

For the first time ever, the festival will feature work from South Africa in the form of Mbuzeni, a show for ages 12+ and adults by Koleka Putuma, about four teenage girls in an orphanage. 'When I first saw it, the entire show was performed in Xhosa, the South African clicking language,' says Jordan. 'But even though I didn't understand the language, the narrative was so clear. So I asked them to retain some of that, and the show's going to be performed 70% in English, 30% in Xhosa. I don't want young people to feel the language barrier, but I do want them to hear the authenticity of the culture that it's from.'

What happens on stage during the Festival is important, but so too is what happens afterwards – during car journeys home, walks along the street, in classrooms and living rooms – all sparked by what people have seen. 'It's about the conversations that occur around the shows,' says Jordan. 'The shows are like a doorway that opens up and allows time for questions and discussion. When they first see a show, they might not have a full understanding of the meaning, but families can talk about what they've seen afterwards, and all our schools performances will have Q&As with artists, giving children and young people a chance to delve deeper.'

Edinburgh International Children's Festival, various venues, Sat 26 May–Sun 3 Jun.

Edinburgh International Children's Festival

Edinburgh's international children’s festival of performing arts presents a programme of dance, storytelling and puppetry, suitable for anyone with an imagination.

Various venues: Edinburgh

Sat 26 May

Times & prices vary / 0131 228 1404

Sun 27 May

Times & prices vary / 0131 228 1404

Mon 28 May

Times & prices vary / 0131 228 1404

…and 6 more dates until 3 Jun

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