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Children’s theatremaker’s verdict on theatre in schools: ‘not inspirational’

School performance of Catherine Wheels' The Ballad of Pondlife McGurk. Photos: Paul Watt School performance of Catherine Wheels' The Ballad of Pondlife McGurk. Photos: Paul Watt
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Most theatre performed in schools is “not good” and is failing to inspire children to see more, according to a leading children’s director.

Gill Robertson, whose company Catherine Wheels makes theatre for children and young people, made the comments at the Theatre 2016 conference during a discussion on whether the art form was a minority interest.

Stressing that children have to be “thrilled” by the performances they see, Robertson said: “Most work that goes into schools is not good. It is not inspirational. It is not innovative.”

She continued: “We need to make sure that the work we put in front of children is exceptional, [and that] it’s not a teaching tool, it’s not message-driven.”

Robertson then said work produced for children “has to have the same rigour and passion and invention and care as the best work that is offered to adults”.

The director also suggested that theatre companies needed to work harder to take theatre out to young people, instead of attempting to attract them into venues and buildings.

She said: “Young people do not need theatre. They are not out on the streets demanding equal theatre for all.

“School children do not go on strike refusing to go to school unless they get a chance to experience a high-quality arts event annually. It is our job as makers to go out and reach the next generation.”

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