I love Shakespeare. I adore the rhyme and rhythm of the words and, over the years, I have read or watched pretty much all of the plays. So when I heard about a company called ‘Oily Cart‘ which were putting on a children’s version of A Winters Tale called ‘In A Pickle’, I was really excited. Although they are only 4 and 6, I don’t think it’s ever too early to be exposed to great writing, great plays and great ideas, so this seemed to be the perfect production to take the children too. We had considered taking the children to see a panto, but thought that the noise, number of people, and sheer silliness might actually be a bit too much for my sensory sensitive 4 year old.
First off I have to say that we have only taken the children to the theatre once since they came home. They have never really had the patience to sit through a whole production, but when I looked further into this, I was really excited to see that it was billed as a more interactive, hands on show. And I have to say, they didn’t fail to deliver!
When we first arrived, we were greeted by Silly Sheep, who took us all into a waiting area to meet the other sheep. Black Sheep, Bell Sheep, Music Sheep and Shepherdess were all waiting to talk to the children and put them at ease. We sat with Black Sheep who talked to the children, helped them to put on their sheep ears and generally made them feel comfortable and happy. Little Sir was a little reluctant to join in at first, but with some gentle persuasion from Black Sheep and Shepherdess, he was soon donning his sheep ears along with the rest of them. This really set the tone for the rest of the production.
We were all led into the main arena – a small area with benches for the children around trestle tables, and chairs for the adults directly behind. Then the show really started – and boy did it hit every sense! We had bubbles, water, music, wind, singing, flowers to smell, herbs to rub our hands on, soft sheep blankets to lie on. Not only was it fantastic for 3 – 5 year olds, it was also perfect for children, like Little Miss, with special needs.
Little Miss has got a communication disorder, which means that she struggles to find words, struggles to make sense of the spoken word and can struggle to put together sentences. She often doesn’t understand when people are talking to her and, if someone talks quickly, she really loses track of what is happening. So I was amazed to see that she understood the whole play, to the extent that she was answering questions and joining in. Normally she spends her time looking round the room at the other children, desperately trying to figure out the cues from them about what she should be doing or how she should be reacting. What a difference today! The way the actors gently introduced the children to the story through their senses meant that Little Miss could immerse herself in the story, and it all made sense. It was wonderful to see.
All in all, I was so impressed with the Oily Cart production. It introduced the children to Shakespeare in such a gentle way and made it all come to life. I shall definitely be taking the children to see another production by Oily Cart as soon as we can – and I’m so glad we didn’t go to the panto instead!
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