“Children are fantastic, with imaginative, great minds”

                                                                                                                               Michael Sherin and Gill Robertson

Gill Robertson is a theatre maker with over 20 years experience of creating world class, award winning theatre for young audiences. In 1999 Gill founded Catherine Wheels Theatre Company and since then has produced over 20 shows for children and young people which have toured to schools, village halls and theatres across Scotland. Abhijit Ganguly spoke to her on the sidelines of a workshop on creating theatre for the young audience organized by Think Arts.

Why is theatre important for children?

Children are fantastic, with imaginative, great minds for theatre. Where I come from in Scotland the history of theatre for young audiences was educational work but over the past 20 years the work created for children is focused on offering a vivid, exciting and thought provoking experience rather than passing on a message. My company Catherine Wheels creates work for all ages with a focus on 5-12 year olds but we have also made work for toddlers and teenagers. I would rather create for children than adults as they are a more honest audience, if they are bored, you know it. Adults are more polite and pretend to be interested,

What is the fantastic part of your work ?

 I work with professional actors, designers, choreographers and composers to create work for children. That’s the way I work. In the 4th week of rehearsals we bring in children to watch the show. It is like putting on a new pair of eyes. You watch the play through them. It helps to see what is working and what is not working. Being in India now is incredible and working with  these 12 talented Indian artists is an honour.

With all these gadgets, how do you motivate children to come to the theatre ?

I think once you get them there, if the work is good, they will be totally engaged. Getting them can be the problem. In Scotland we have that problem as well. So we take our work into schools. There you have an audience ready and waiting. The more they see good interesting work, the more they want to see it. School theatre can inspire, kids, teachers and parents. Yes, parents come and enjoy it as much as their children. Then opinions about theatre and a belief in the power of theatre grows. It doesn’t have to be a competition between technology and live arts. they are different but there needs to be a balance. Technology (computers, i-pads, tv) is there in front of them. You don’t have to work to get there. But sitting in a live performance with a live audience is a very different experience.

What are some of the themes you have for your theatre work?

It can be anything. We have two plays we are touring at the moment; lifeboat is touring the USA set in ww11 and it is a girls adventure story about friends who support each other when a tragedy occurs. And in France we are touring “white” in which men live in an all-white world. One day a red egg appears into their white world. And the men have to deal with colour for the first time. There is a simple  narrative, very few words and a striking set. (in the past) We have done fairy-tales such as Hansel and Gretel and also I have adapted books. Lots of different types of works. Last one I created the voice thief, a promenade production about a man who captures little girls voices and turn them into nice, smooth, polite voices. so as you can see my work is varied.

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