Hearing the Sherman Theatre’s Christmas production for younger children was The Emperor’s New Clothes was melancholy. I have a recollection of going to see the play on a school trip to Cardiff’s New Theatre. The fact it’s a vague recollection makes me feel old.
This year has been the first year I’ve hesitated to take the children. They’re so engrossed now in theatre that I bought tickets for The Borrowers in Christmas week. But my melancholy, and the fact the boys are still 5, convinced me that seeing a production aimed at 3-6 year olds couldn’t be a bad thing.
It wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, it was just what we needed.
And whilst CM is 7, this version of the production helped with a message we’re trying to help her understand. With the added bonus, she loved the performance.
CM is more familiar with The Emperor’s New Clothes than the boys. I’ll be honest the boys’ recollection simply stretched to the fact the Emperor ended up naked. Welcome to my world.
This co-production with Theatr Iolo saw the words taken off the page with music, dance and great humour. The children were completely taken from the outset. With a tap dancing Emperor, swathes of material, and the wealth of music it was a case of what wasn’t to love. And seeing the story created through instruments including a banjo, guitar, saxophone and clarinet meant the children were entranced by music.Introduced to Kare, the young boy, as he learns of his future role of Emperor from his parents. The children were instantly engaged with Geraint Rhys Edwards. Physical movement became a key way of understanding the age of the boy. With humour from the outset through monkey impressions (particularly loved by E following his recent turn as a monkey in the school concert), the story unfolded with the child’s fall from grace as he forgot to laugh at himself.
As the joy left this family, a love of clothes became the only way of achieving confidence. The humour was maintained in pursuit of ‘cool’.
We were introduced to the weavers. Elin Phillips and Tobias Weatherburn seamlessly transferring from the role of parents. Such distinct characteristics made this believable to the young audience.And too soon we were there. Watching the Emperor’s downfall as his pursuit of the materialist and power saw him falling for the weavers’ conviction of the beauty of his clothes.
Fortunately the production had an appropriate solution for creation of naked. Although B was slightly more confused that in Emily Jones’s fantastic illustration the Emperor wasn’t wearing braces. Oh, to be 5.Alun Saunders interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale meant we were introduced to the boy. The boy who allowed the Emperor to understand that he needed to laugh at himself. To be able to laugh at oneself.
And so the joy was returned.
And maybe, just maybe, my 7 yo will stop taking life, and herself, so seriously. To remember as much as she likes to make fun with her brothers, she will be on the receiving end of this humour. And for the boys? Well, I’d like to think a little less naked might be achieved. But I doubt it. The message of remembering the joy is equally there. In their world where big maths and the numbers of reading books is key to progress, sometimes it just has to be about bringing happiness.
I asked B what his favourite part of the performance was. He couldn’t narrow it down to one. And I felt fortunate. We’ve been back in Wales since the boys were 6 months old. They have grown up with the Sherman Theatre’s Christmas productions. Each holds a place in their memory, as well as mine. And I have no doubt a tap dancing Emperor wearing braces will be remembered by B and E.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is perfect for children from 3, and upwards. The space and cast entwine with the young audience. Accepting of commentary and numb bums. As always, the studio has mats, small chairs and big chairs making it a perfect space for families.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is at the Sherman Theatre until 31st December 2016, with tickets available from the website.
Disclosure: We were invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions contained are our own.