ASSITEJ South Africa was delighted to have welcomed Sarah Argent and Kevin Lewis to run a 2-day workshop for artists at the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg, supported by British Council Wales. Sarah and Kevin are internationally-renowned, award-winning artists from Wales, UK, specialising in theatre for young audiences. Through practical drama exercises and discussion, Sarah and Kevin have shared their processes in researching, developing initial ideas, creating devised work, and staging scripted work for young children including babies as young as 6 months.
This is what Lereko Mfono, one of the participants who fully attended the workshop, had to say:
“On the 16th and 17th of May I had the privilege of playing with two very accomplished theatremakers from Wales, Sarah Argent and Kevin Lewis. They were hosted by ASSITEJ South Africa at the National School of the Arts. Between them they have decades worth of experience creating theatre work for early years (0-6 years) and I must say the ease with which they introduced us into the work was really commendable.
Early years theatre for me has always been intimidating, the idea that you can keep babies entertained and engrossed in a piece of storytelling for 30 or so minutes (we heard in the workshop there is a theatre company doing it for 5-6 hours) is a daunting task to begin to think about.
But Sarah and Kevin shared with us the wonder of babies, how a baby is capable of seeing the world and, through their senses, perceiving it in multi-dimensional ways. Sarah and Kevin paired us up and with just a stick and a box, challenged us to find a story – What can they be together? Apart? What happens if Partner A grabs the stick but wants the box from Partner B? What sounds can they make and what can the sticks and boxes become through your imagination.
This simple exercise opened up a world of imagery, sounds and what binds them all together, story. We did some very interesting story exercises also; in one of them you are given three words each to build a three-act story as a whole group, which helped us to understand how important it is to have a high level of awareness when you are doing this work and to also be comfortable exploring different and unconventional story forms.
The highlight for me was the short showcases we presented at the last day. Each workshop participant had to bring an object from home and in the workshop explore its sound, movement, resourcefulness and how it interacts in the environment. Once we had all explored our objects, Sarah and Kevin through a curve ball at us, “In your groups of three or four, you have 5 minutes to create a short theatre play using the objects, GO!” We had no time to think, so we Played, Explored and Imagined the objects into stories and the results were amazing!
Each group had literally created early years work- In my group, a Hawaiian flower lei, adapter plug and baby toy grip transformed into an electrical machine, smiling heroine and jaw-breaker villain, and our story saw all three characters emerge from different backgrounds, clash to get along and in the end playing together in a circle of love. Summing up the two workshops for me, nerve-wrecking beginning journeying towards a love, passion and respect for baby theatre! Thank you to Sarah and Kevin for taking the time out of their busy schedules to share their magic with us and thank you to ASSITEJ SA for hosting the workshops.”