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Playtime! New show toys with the rules and roles parents and kids play.
Thursday 7th February 2019 @ 10:47 by Anna Fletcher
Community Entertainment Events

Typically the lives of children are governed by the rules that adults set for them – how to behave, when to go to bed and the like. It’s the sort of necessary discipline that can teach our kids as they grow, and that helps keeps them healthy and safe.

But isn’t the natural inclination of most children to challenge those very same rules by testing their limits? And isn’t it also their ‘job,’ if you like, to spend each and every day finding opportunities to indulge in something that the grown-ups supposedly calling the shots can easily forget how to do – namely, play?

Big Up! – a co-production between two of the UK’s leading theatre companies making work specifically for, or with, young people and coming to Oldham Library – is itself happily playing with the classic push-pull equation between parent (or carer) and child. This rib-tickling, imaginative new show was developed through research with parents or carers and their 3 to 6 year-olds. The universal experiences it puts onstage can be easily enjoyed by audiences of all ages.

Big Up! is the brainchild of Sue Buckmaster and Keith Saha, the respective artistic directors (or, in Saha’s case, co-artistic director) of London-based Theatre-Rites, founded in 1995, and 20 Stories High, formed eleven years later in Liverpool. Both of these highly experienced and talented people are parents themselves, and each approached the creation of ‘Big Up!’ with certain ideas in mind.

For Saha it was remembering the pleasure he got from observing audiences at his own company’s shows. ‘I loved seeing young parents dancing with their children, and how close they were,’ he says. ‘I wanted to make a show where they could share the music they loved, and many other magical and surprising moments.’

Buckmaster is a dab hand at creating performances that delight youngsters and adults alike. ‘Our hit show Beasty Baby addressed some of the challenges and rewards of raising children,’ she says, ‘so I came to Big Up! with a few more questions about the dynamic between generations. We’re parenting all the time, but how do we parent each other? Who’s playing parental role and the looked-after role? And how do we manage each other’s tantrums?!’

Big Up! is fun, light-hearted and ingenious. Featuring a lively and diversely-gifted cast of four, this irresistibly playful performance demonstrates what happens when a beatboxer, a singer and a puppeteer arrive onstage but nothing is ready for them. No set, no instruments, no puppets…and no rules. The result is joy and chaos, with various objects – a microphone, a string of leads, a packing case and its foam padding – coming to life in an atmosphere where absolutely anything is possible. 

Big Up! is at heart designed to be a show that little ones and grown-ups can share together, but also one where everyone might have quite different experiences. It is also the perfect answer to one of the basic questions that Saha and Buckmaster asked themselves while creating it: ‘How can you make something that lets a 3 to 6 year-old have one experience while their parents, brother or sister get something else entirely out of it? We hope Big Up! will enthral everyone, regardless of whether they’re big or small.’

The show is accompanied by a residency in which young adults (and anyone aged 13+) will be able to get something entirely different in the shape of Mash Up!, a music gig like no other hosted by cast members Hobbit, an ace beatboxer, and singer/rapper Dorcas Sebuyange.

Big Up! is at Oldham Library from 20 – 22 February then tours. Mash Up is on 20 February at 7pm. Tickets: 0161 770 8000 / oldham.gov.uk/liveatthelibrary

Big Up! preview feature by Donald Hutera