November 28th, 2016
Six Legs is a new show for 4-7 year old children and their families that Cap-a-Pie created with Dr Vivek Nityananda, a scientist at Newcastle University. Vivek researches how insects perceive and understand the world and Six Legs used stories about insects to get children thinking about how humans and insects are similar or different to each other. Creating Six Legs was a rewarding and demanding project for Cap-a-Pie. It enabled the company to work with a researcher in a new context and further developed how Cap-a-Pie makes engaging and imaginative theatre for children.
Six Legs was shown at Ouseburn Farm over summer 2016, at Juice Festival in October 2016 and for local primary school children. The show has engaged 467 people including families and young children from the local area in thinking and learning about insects within an imaginary world. The previous summer Cap-a-Pie had worked with 448 people including families and school children to begin creating the show.
Cap-a-Pie were very pleased to work with a talented creative team and Dr Vivek Nityananda who was extremely generous with his time and commitment to the project.
Cap-a-Pie has previously partnered with academic researchers to make theatre together and Six Legs further confirmed that this is an interesting and exciting way to make shows. The material brought by Vivek was so rich and engaging it made it easy to start creating ideas for the show.
Creating Six Legs brought challenges in translating complex ideas for a very young audience. The main tension was creating a piece which was true to the research yet was accessible and engaging for children. The scientific material and the challenges of communicating this meant the artists had to find new ways to speak to and engage with the audience that led to the development of a highly innovative and unusual show.
In Six Legs the young audience participate in the show through activities and imaginative play. Prior to the start of the show the actors talk informally with the audience. This helps to create a rapport between the performer and the audience and builds the context for the imaginative world. The show then begins and the actors ask the children to build a garden for insects to inhabit.
The production makes use of recycled, thrown out and everyday objects to create set, props, costume and puppets. This choice further enables the audience to engage in imaginative play. An early part of the show is the “insect parade” where the performers use everyday items such as a brush, cardboard and a phone charger as puppets. The audience often begins shouting out and naming each as the insects they imagine them to be. One performer commented that each section of the show was like a new game that he and the children were playing together, consciously invested in the imaginary world.
One audience member commented that she saw a lot of children’s theatre with her children and Six Legs ability to draw the children into the world of the show alongside the performers was particularly exciting. Written feedback from families included
- “Ingenious use of everyday objects”
- “Brilliant show, fantastic acting, very imaginative.”
- “Wonderful narrative. LOVED IT!”
- “The composition, the actors, the presentation, the wit. It was truly amazing.”
In discussions after the show the children could articulate insect behaviour that they had seen in the show and compare it with how they acted.
In the future Cap-a-Pie plan to tour Six Legs to schools, community venues and theatres. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know more about the show.