Can pantomime inspire children?
We set out each year to try to inspire every child in the audience and to change the lives of one or two. But can theatre in education really make this happen?
Last week I was reading a piece written by Sir Lenny Henry on the Sky News website where he described his first experience of theatre with his primary school - a pantomime which defined the course of his life.
“The creative arts are much more than an easy-to-lose option in our children's school day - they should be immovable items, something cherished and valued by parents, teachers and employers alike.”
And this of course is something readers of this blog understand.
Coincidentally earlier in September we were in a recording studio with Alexander Armstrong, recording his contribution as the Voice of the Bells for our production of Dick Whittington. He told us that he remembers a company like West End in Schools visiting his primary school, and that it was one of the formative moments for his life too.
In fact, as we go through the casting process for our pantomimes each autumn we find ourselves talking to many actors about the importance of working in primary schools. We consistently discover that the majority of those working in the theatre remember a magical moment sparked by a performance in their childhood - often arranged by their school.
Matilda the Musical is a wonderful piece of theatre produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and running the the West End (in the same theatre where I managed Jerry Springer - The Opera 15 years ago!).
We were thrilled recently when speaking to a school after a pantomime to ask if we could come back the following year and the answer was even more positive than we expected.
It turned out that one pupil with no prior experience of theatre had enjoyed our previous panto so much that she had joined a drama club, auditioned, and was already playing the part of Matilda in the West End - where there are currently six West End in Schools alumni in the cast!