It’s been a week or so since I’ve been back from Wales where ‘The Whisper Tree’ was premiered. It was a great project and one that is hopefully (fingers crossed) not finished for good just yet. The week was such a brilliant experience from not only seeing some of my own work be put on in front of an eager audience, but a lot of behind the scenes. The idea of a handful of creative folks living in each other’s pockets in the middle of nowhere could have been nightmarish. But it was such a pleasure and I learned a lot from the actors and director about elements of their craft that I’d never been able to ask anyone before and the same in return. If felt nothing like work and that was a real treat. I think we can safely say that it felt like a holiday.
The interesting thing for me was having a different audience. I’ve written children’s theatre before but it’s been on a small scale and adaptations. This was my first foray into a pure (full length) piece of children’s theatre and I was anxious about how the children were going to react to it. For the first performance I hung back and set up the drawing activities. But there’s a section at the beginning of the play before they’ve even set off into the wood which relies on the children responding. As soon as they all chimed in with their responses I was happy that something was working and it was working right. When they all returned having found ‘The Whisper Tree’ they were keen to draw what they had seen and what they would tell it. Success!
When I finally went on the journey with the children it was such a joy to see them all enraptured by Rory and Tilly and even better to see them ask questions. What struck me was that they felt comfortable being able to talk to the characters, they were never disruptive, they were inquisitive. The adults that came along were also listening intently and I suppose it’s hard to fully let your imagination run wild as a parent when you’re busy juggling the real life alongside a child. One parent said that he was going to have to come back with his son because he really identified with our main character. This really touched me because that’s what we set out to do. Our aim was to make people stop and look and listen to an area where they may not visit that often or at all and to see a lot of the children’s drawing saying they wanted to come back was the best feedback.
To be near a child who is fully accepting everything around them no matter how fantastical or bizarre was, for want of a better word, magical. It wasn’t about worrying what people would say about your work, how many stars people would apply to your work, what fragment of a review you could select, what your peers would go home thinking about… I completely handed over everything to the kids and it was brilliant. The actors were superb and the children became their allies and that’s all I hoped for and it’s definitely what I got. It’s hard to describe but it’s almost as if ‘The Whisper Tree’ wasn’t really written by me, it was the audience that really made it and I happened to be parry to their journeys and enjoyed it as much as them.
I’ve updated my website recently which has photographs from ‘The Whisper Tree’ on there so do feel free to have a look at what I’ve tried to pin to the page here. I think you’ll agree that the production was an all round success and that was down to everyone involved and especially the audience.