Challenging stereotypes in children's theatre

Third-year theatre students from Victoria University of Wellington are finding out what it takes to create effective children’s theatre.

MoonlightVictoria’s School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies teaching fellow, Kerryn Palmer, says there is an attitude in New Zealand that theatre for young audiences is “merely a ‘filler’ for a theatre company, a money spinner, or something actors may dabble in before they get a ‘real’ job. But that’s just not the case,” she says.

Ms Palmer and students of the third-year Collaborative Production course have devised two children’s theatre shows for the October School Holidays. Moonlight, for ages 4-8, is about a young girl overcoming her fear of the dark, and In the Attic, for ages 8+, is an adventurous tale about three friends tumbling into a weird and wonderful new world.

In The AtticThe project is part of Ms Palmer’s PhD research into the state of theatre for young audiences in New Zealand, which focuses on how the industry can support practitioners to create more engaging and inspiring theatre works that respect and value children.

“My aspiration with this research is to highlight ethical and effective practices, so that New Zealand children can experience consistently high-quality theatre,” says Ms Palmer.

Part of the development of the shows involved going into Wellington primary schools, where the students presented their work and ideas to the children, and the children gave feedback on the shows at different stages of the process.

“The children’s feedback became the core inspiration for the shows,” says student Terri Cochrane, “The experience overall has been one of experimenting, relating children to theatre, and theatre to children.”

Inspired by theatre makers such as Wellington’s Trick of the Light (themselves graduates of Victoria’s Theatre Programme) and Australia's Patch Theatre, the students aspire to create quality theatre for children, to be enjoyed by children and adults alike, Ms Palmer says.

What: Two plays for children: Moonlight (4-8 years) and In The Attic (8+ years), directed by Kerryn Palmer. Devised and performed by Victoria University THEA311 students.

When: Wednesday 11 - Saturday 14 October 2017. Morning, afternoon and evening shows. Please check Eventfinda for a full list of times.

Where: Studio 77, 77 Fairlie Terrace, Kelburn

Tickets: $5/$8/$16 at, search “Moonlight” or “In the Attic

For more information contact Gemma Revell on 0211898902 or