Opinion: Arts mArtyr – Learning From Littles, Or Small Mercies

November 18, 2014



One of the joys of living in Gauteng is the wide array of activities that are on offer for families. And by this, I mean the kids are taken care of – any parent worth their salt will concur.

They say a happy wife leads to a happy life, but those words were probably uttered by a childless husband, as the little ones usually trump the wife on most days. Theatre is just one of the ways to keep your offspring entertained for a few hours. You could possibly catch up on some lost sleep from the previous night, but, if you do this, you will lose out on an opportunity to witness children at their learning best.

You would think that a young audience is thoroughly engaged while the actors are on stage, but they are most captivated after the show, when they get to interact with the cast members. Next time you attend a theatre production at the Joburg Theatre, Teatro or the State Theatre, instead of dashing out early to beat the traffic, stay and mingle. This is where you will learn that the majority of the cast members were drawn into the performing arts at an early age.

After being dazzled by professional shows such as The Emperor’s New Clothes and The Little Mermaid,  initiatives such as the Pretoria Youth Theatre’s workshops – every second Saturday at The Irene Village Theatre in December – make a real difference. This is where the word “edutainment” comes into play, as there are equal amounts of education and entertainment at the sessions.

From an early age, children are taught drama and performing skills that they can use in what used to be considered unrelated parts of their lives. For instance, October 22 was the international day of stuttering awareness and there are a number of parents who will attest that their children’s condition improved because of their being part of a dramatic or performing arts group.

Self-confidence, a sense of belonging and an elevated self-esteem are all benefits enjoyed by artistically astute children, and it can all start with kids’ theatre. If you take productions such as the Peoples Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast or The Wizard of Oz presented by the National Children’s Theatre at face value, they might seem like nothing but a collection of elaborate sets and catchy rhymes. But take a deeper look and you will realise that your child might possibly be a better listener or even be enjoying better grades at school, all because of what they choose to do with their spare time.

Gautengers are infamous for moaning about just how far away everything is. Luckily, theatres have been built all around the province and whether you are in the East (Springs Theatre), West (Promusica Theatre), North (State Theatre) or South (Soweto Theatrre), all you have to do is just pitch up and they will  cater for you and the little ones.

If you still think that all that children’s theatre is good for is for nothing more than a short nap, rather try and be stay alert just once. If nothing else, you will realise that animated films have nothing on theatre when it comes to double entendres and puns.