Over the past week I have been making the Theatre of Dreams, a portable, easily constructed and dismantled travelling toy theatre. And on Friday I took it on its maiden voyage, to Brixton Primary School for an all-day workshop exploring the characters in Roald Dahl’s children’s books. With some delightfully small classes (including very authentic Oompa-Loompas with orange faces and green hair, and even a human ‘golden ticket’) I introduced the style of toy theatre performance and each child made their own toy theatre Dahl character, with me frantically cutting and twisting lengths of wire in readiness for completed puppets.
The children then grouped up and devised their own short sketches, based on unlikely encounters between characters of Dahl’s various stories, such as Willy Wonka, Fantastic Mr Fox and Mrs Twit. Once everyone had grasped the basic principles of effective toy theatre performance (move characters slowly and minimally, keep them facing the audience, etc) some clever and amusing little plays developed, some featuring music and even rolling credits.
This promises to be the start of a series of forays into storytelling within schools, via the visual arts. I’m going to return to the drawing board and figure out ways of making better, even more beautifully-crafted paper puppets and scenery with children, and delving further into their story imaginations to start exploring themes in more depth.