Sponge is a feel-good soft-play disco for ages 0-4. It’s full of the silliness and mischief that kids love and targeted at an age range that forms experiences that open up theatre to them in the future. Kids are dazzled by the lights and props, the possibilities for play and the opportunities for participation. They run around without being told to sit down, throw things and shout out without being told off, and dance with the performers rather than sit still. It’s not strictly dance, theatre or comedy, but it is happy, bright and open.
The show is a slow escalation of size and texture. Buckets are used as drums and boats and sponges as building blocks, trampolines and rain. It makes a mess of textures, coarse, soft, honeycomb and stretchy. The sponges also prove oddly versatile as costume – here a crawling mushroom that looks like it’s from a 50s sci-fi film, there used to gently reference Charlie Chaplin’s potato fork dance from The Gold Rush or dance moves from Saturday Night Fever. These subtle allusions exist more for the adults in the room than the kid themselves, but they offer another level to the show, little Easter eggs to keep parents entertained alongside the kids
As theatre and performance for young people continues to innovate and expand across the country with new companies and artists, performances like Sponge are a soft and squishy entry into that world. Its allows all kids to feel the freedom of new performance and encourages its audiences to engage and have fun. It introduces from the first (perhaps the very first time for many of the children there) the idea that there is more to theatre than sitting in the dark whilst someone speaks. It can be anarchic, rough and ready, silly and bizarre, with no story to speak of but built on of a series of interactions between performer and audience. And that’s a good lesson to share.
- Lewis Church
Links Relevant to this Diagnosis:
Purni Morrell on Children's Theatre - The Stage
Half of Teenagers 'Never Been In a Theatre' - BBC News
Charlie Chaplin's Table Dance - The Gold Rush (1925)