From revelry to alchemy : six lenses for interpreting theatre for young Australian audiences

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This thesis analyses theatre for young audiences as an aesthetic artform in and of itself. Focusing specifically on the moment of live performance, it proposes six interpretive lenses as systems of signification that facilitate understandings of how performances created essentially for children offer important multi-layered experiences for their audiences. Reflecting on the dual roles of theatre as both art and communication, the study challenges the polarised notion that such work exists solely as either a teaching tool or light entertainment. The artistic codes proposed as part of this research have been developed over twenty years of personal experience creating theatre for children and may be considered as constituting what could be called a poetics of children’s theatre. The six codes are: 1. Revelry, the code that aims to communicate a raucous sense of euphoric, cathartic energy and unity through audience participation, carnivalesque laughter and fear. 2. Enchantment, the code that communicates a sense of soothing and surrender to a sense of sublime wonder and hope. 3. Instruction, the code that teaches. 4. Identity, the code that aims to connect on a personal level, in which individuals recognise themselves or something of their own lives. . 5. Enlightenment, the code that shows diversity and critical thinking about philosophical and social issues. 6. Alchemy, the code of stimulation that seeks to communicate change; aiming to grow the imagination and inspire a sense of self-belief. Findings show that whilst theatre for young audiences can be both educational and diversionary, it also provides in-depth works that provide complex encounters. Thus theatre for young people is an enriching medium for its audiences of all ages.
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