The Mums and Babies' Ensemble: Theatre-Making with The Early Years

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Sch of Arts

Abstract

The Mums and Babies' Ensemble is a two-pronged public engagement project utilising research findings from the PIs research in the 21st century dramaturgies, aimed at both theatre-makers and general audience. Rooted in the idea of theatre authorship as an increasingly participatory, non-literary, ensemble- rather than playwright- or director-led process, the project is intended to explore these principles in the specific context of a theatre practice which includes as equal participants both the adults and the Early Years (0-3 year olds) - capitalising on the notion of theatre for Early Years as a category which according to Ben Fletcher-Watson (2013) can also be thought of as belonging to postdramatic theatre.

The project is innovative and unique in its potential to meet the identified need in two ways. First, it fills a particular gap in the repertoire - rather than being aimed exclusively at either the parents (such as Soho Screamers) or the for Early Years (as a sub genre of children's theatre), the project will be led by and aimed at parents and babies equally, thus also forming the first instance of the babies being involved as creative partners in a process of theatre-making. Secondly, the process is ultimately geared towards creating an innovative performance script in the form of a creative handbook for future theatre-makers and their babies which will provide a specific dramaturgical framework but remain open enough for subsequent ensembles and audiences to fill with their personal material.

There will be three stages to the script-development, starting with a week-long workshop in London. This stage will engage local parents and babies, neonatal and theatre professionals as well as general audiences as part of the development methodology, thus creating pathways for further dissemination of the work and the script on the national level. The second stage will focus on the creation of the script with the first draft deadline in May 2015 and the third stage will involve editing and preparation of the script itself for publication in September 2015. We will work with a graphic designer (preferably a parent) on the script preparation. The script will be published in 500 copies as a publication with an ISBN number by The Institute for Art and Practice of Dissent at Home and it will be disseminated through suitable bookshops and online outlets (the Institute already has a relationship with the Live Art and Development Unbound website which we will use for this purpose) as well as relevant conferences and public events.

Planned Impact

As a cross between a parents and babies' group and a theatre performance, the project has the potential of benefiting a large cross-section of interested parties, including the general public as well as performance professionals and theatre programmers.

Unlike conventional mothers and babies groups, this project is interested in the creative, emotional and intellectual participation of the parents as well as the physical, emotional and creative participation of the babies. It is designed to accommodate all of the participants' needs equally which might mean playing together but also might involve the mothers sharing birth stories and the babies being changed or fed in the course of the live performance.

In the process of developing this application I have already been contacted by mothers theatre-makers who feel isolated or alienated by the existing provision in the community and who are keen to become involved with this kind of theatre project. There is also evidence that theatre provision for The Early Years (as opposed to theatre for children aged 3+) is more limited in England than it is in other cultures. The implication is that this work might also be of interest to various theatres' programming and education departments.

The work will also extend our own repertoire of skills and professional experience and ultimately feed into any teaching or mentoring we offer subsequently.

Publications


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Description The main outcome is a performance script/manual aimed at helping new parents to build a community around themselves using the techniques of theatre-making.

This project was inspired by the potential of theatre to facilitate a community around a specific shared experience (in this case, the experience of new parenthood). It takes from theatre its capacity to creatively accommodate real-life disruption (in this case the very real needs of our babies) and to make us improvise around it. It also takes from theatre its organising principle of a group of people in a shared time and space, feeling, thinking, acting together. But it does not have to be a theatre. The space in which the Ensemble comes together does not even have to be a room. It can be a park. It can be a book, such as this one. It can be a Facebook group, it can be email, it can be Dropbox, it can be a Google-doc - all ways we have used in our work together. The most important thing is that it is there, we hold it together, it is warm and caring, it contains us and our babies. And it is a space that we can pass onto others to share and make their own.
Exploitation Route The publication outcome is highly user-friendly and aimed at a large cross-section of audience. Despite the name The Mums and Babies Ensemble have worked successfully with both parents (of both genders) and non-parents using the techniqes presented in the book and the book is intended to pass these techniques on.
Sectors Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
 
Description The book has been available for sale through the LADA Unbound website. There is also a facebook group for the project: https://www.facebook.com/themumsandbabiesensemble/?fref=ts. I have used the published manual in my classes.
First Year Of Impact 2015