The Inspiring Internationalists Project

CTC & David S Craig, Lynda Hall

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Takeoff is an annual celebration of professional theatre for young audiences, practised in at least 82 countries and in all manner of economic models. We are a small enough and new enough field to be growing fast and exchanging ideas a great deal.

Few art forms are unique to one country. Fossil art forms, like Noh Theatre, perhaps. Most of us use the arts in similar ways, either to comment on the world around us for the benefit of an audience or to express our feelings as individuals living in a certain time and place.

Some countries, notably the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Wallonie (francophone Belgium) and Quebec (francophone Canada) are very proud of the achievements of their professional theatre for children, and invest a lot of public money to support production and distribution – including overseas promotion.

As it happens, the English speaking world is currently producing less universally admired work than some other cultural communities, partly because of a lack of serious commitment and investment on the part of our Governments. It was a delight therefore to be able to celebrate the small but strong presence of quality theatre for children in Anglophone Canada, represented by David S Craig.

David’s commitment to writing accessible plays about real life has indeed been recognised in the last few years by our colleagues in Germany with at least 20 productions of his plays there compared with two in the UK. His work is in the tradition of robust theatre entertainment in touch with audiences, which has made UK theatre writing for adults attractive today to audiences in many other countries. David’s critique of UK shows is an invaluable corrective to both ends of the producer spectrum – the instrumentalists who only consider a show has merit if it supports the curriculum or sells an idea to a young audience, or those who believe good art, whatever the content, will appeal to anyone.

Lynda Hill represents another healthy Canadian institution – the chain of Summer festivals of theatre for children from Vancouver to Ottawa at which the best of overseas production is shown in an informal, holiday context. Her contribution has been to make clear the criteria by which a UK show might be selected for invitation.

Both Canadians reminded UK producers how protected we are by working invisibly in schools and by the benign neglect of the arts establishment.

Paul Harman

Comment by Paul Harman

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