Children’s theatre to tackle grief and loss

In this Guest Blog Catherine Manford from Colour the Clouds talks us through how she challenges grief and loss in children’s theatre.

Picture of an illustration with waves and musical notes

When I tell people about the subject matter of our exciting new production, Maggie and the Song of the Sea, they usually say ‘Oh. Okay.’

I guess that response is to be expected when they hear that our show for ages 7+ is about grief and loss. ‘It’s not a comedy then?’ they might venture. ‘No,’ I reply, wondering how to convince them that whilst the subject matter is serious, the performance isn’t all doom and gloom; expect Colour The Clouds’ physical storytelling combined with puppetry and live music, to bring adventures to life.

 

Maggie

What are we going to do today?

Granddad

Well I thought today we would take a little sail out on the sea…

Where shall we head to?

Maggie

I think we’ll go to………Shingle Bay!

Granddad

Oh good choice! You know what’s at Shingle Bay don’t you?

Maggie/Granddad

Treasure!

For those audiences that are familiar with our award-winning production, ‘Billy, The Monster and ME!’, the change in tone may come as even more of a surprise – how does a company go from creating an ‘inventive, well-paced and absolutely hilarious’* production to a show about childhood bereavement.

(* Northern Soul review of Billy, The Monster and ME!)

Catherine Manford (Composer) and Samantha Vaughan (Role of 'Mum')
Catherine Manford (Composer) and Samantha Vaughan (Role of ‘Mum’)

My wonderful friend and co-founder of Colour The Clouds, Sarah Birch, wrote an incredible story about a girl called Maggie who has synaesthesia– a condition where the senses are blurred and often operate on multiple levels. If you haven’t heard of it – (I thought Sarah had invented this amazingly wonderful condition) – please, look it up – it’s fascinating.

 

“Synaesthesia is a truly fascinating condition. In its simplest form it is best described as a “union of the senses” whereby two or more of the five senses that are normally experienced separately are involuntarily and automatically joined together. Some synaesthetes experience colour when they hear sounds or read words. Others experience tastes, smells, shapes or touches in almost any combination. These sensations are automatic and cannot be turned on or off. Synaesthesia isn’t a disease or illness and is not at all harmful. In fact, the vast majority of synaesthetes couldn’t imagine life without it.” www.uksynaesthesia.com

For Maggie, her synaesthesia presents itself through music, with every significant person, place, object in her life having it’s own melody; in effect Maggie’s life is accompanied by her own personal underscore – I know – how cool is that? To Maggie, this is just ‘the norm’ – it is all she has ever known. But one day, when her Granddad, to whom she is extremely close, dies, Maggie’s music disappears, and for the first time in her life, she is surrounded by silence.

After the vibrant, exciting and colourful adventures brought to life with puppetry and live music, the second half of the play follows Maggie’s journey through the different stages of grief, offering children the chance ‘to learn about death in a non-threatening environment.’*

 

Leo Atkin (Role of 'Granddad'), Josie Cerise (Role of 'Maggie') and Evan Jackson (Role of 'Narrator')
Leo Atkin (Role of ‘Granddad’), Josie Cerise (Role of ‘Maggie’) and Evan Jackson (Role of ‘Narrator’)

We have been fortunate enough to have developed this production with Winston’s Wish; the childhood bereavement charity. As they have acknowledged, children learn best about difficult things through stories, and with their guidance, Maggie’s story is ‘a realistic portrayal of a child’s journey through grief.’* It doesn’t shy away from the subject matter, but once Maggie has accepted her loss, and time moves forward, we see that she gains a strength and becomes more like herself, and whilst there is sadness, there is also hope;

As with all of our work, this story has been inspired by real life experiences, and the truth and honesty with which this story has been written is truly beautiful.

Maggie and the Song of the Sea premiers at Roundabout at The Lowry

Thu 17 – Saturday 19th September 2015

Before moving on to the company’s home-turf at Oldham Library’s performance space in October.

To book tickets PLEASE VISIT:

www.thelowry.com/event/maggie-and-the-song-of-the-sea

Written by Catherine Manford