Perth Theatre is one of Scotland’s oldest repertory theatres, and numerous stars of stage and screen have performed there. Alec Guinness, Donald Sutherland and Crieff’s very own Ewan McGregor have all trod the boards. Following its recent refurbishment, the theatre is in tip-top condition with a beautifully restored auditorium, modern foyer and stylish café and bar.
I hardly needed another reason to visit, but then I heard about Little Stars. This is a programme of workshops held at Perth Theatre for babies and pre-schoolers, introducing children to the fun of singing, dancing and drama. Little Stars has been on the go for a few years, but there are now specially tailored sessions for dads and grandparents to attend. My mum and my three-year-old, James, were up for trying something new, so we all popped along. Personally, I enjoy the limelight about as much as James enjoys a bath (not a lot) but he seemed ready to flex his acting muscles!
The grandparents’ class started off with everyone sitting together around a big basket filled to the brim with hats, masks, and other fancy dress. James was keen to dive straight in, but first we warmed up with a couple of action songs. Then Amy, our tutor, put on an elf hat, told us all about her work with Santa, and we were off. Granny picked an explorer’s hat for James, and Amy gave him some imaginary binoculars to go with it. He and Granny were tasked with finding a ladybird hidden somewhere in the studio, and were soon searching through a dense forest (behind the curtains) and in a dark cave (under the table).
They had to make appropriate sound effects, and choose how to move – hopping, running, tip-toeing, and so on. Amy ensured that James was engaged every step of their pretend journey, and when he finally found the ladybird it turned out to be nothing more than thin air clasped carefully in his hands.
I was astounded at the extent of my child’s creative play, and the way he interacted with Amy as she consistently asked for his input and ideas. I could see his confidence growing by the minute.
A basket of hats had transported James and Granny to a whole new world, with giggles and excitement all round.
As we approach the festive season and prepare to empty our wallets buying any number of pricey games and toys (the cost of Lego is likely to leave me bankrupt….), Little Stars is a timely reminder of how little children really need to have a great time. A basket of hats had transported James and Granny to a whole new world, with giggles and excitement all round.
Next James plucked a colourful bird mask from the basket and he chose a name for the bird before building it a nest. The arrival of Sammy the snake (suspiciously orange and feathery for a snake) meant a fair amount of chasing around the room. I’m not sure who was enjoying themselves more, James or Granny.
Eventually it was time to tidy up but in a drama class that isn’t something you do quietly. Each item thrown back into the basket necessitated a different sound-effect (bang, whee, crash…) and as we all know, kids don’t object to tidying up when it isn’t their parents asking them to do it!
We finished off with a story, before heading home. James was full of beans by the end of the class, and if Granny was knackered, she wasn’t about to admit it!
The Little Stars grandparents’ workshop is a novel idea, getting doting grandparents together in a structured, lively environment. However, there is no rest for the wicked, particularly around Halloween, and James and I were not yet finished with our amateur dramatics. I also wanted to check out the regular Little Stars class, open to all parents and carers.
We headed back to Perth Theatre a few days later and, as we were early, took advantage of the under 5’s play area in the café (James also wangled a tasty-looking bakewell slice out of me). Little Stars was busy, and our tutor Emma soon had the kids stretching their bodies, and their vocal cords. In this class, the adults took a welcome backseat, observing as the wee ones threw themselves into the activities.
Emma brought a make-believe roller-coaster to life, with everyone bouncing around, trundling to the top, then whooshing downhill (shrieking with glee was optional). Next, the children practised expressing different emotions with a cheesy smiling face, a tired face and a confused face. Then Emma, full of surprises, produced a ukulele for a wee sing-along.
Halloween took centre stage as each child picked a spooky creature to impersonate. James wanted to be a skeleton – an ambitious choice for an inexperienced actor, I would say - the toads, bats, witches and zombies were perhaps more convincing. More drama unfolded as everybody opened creaky doors, stirred a cauldron, turned into frogs, and got covered in green slime. In case I’ve lost you, don’t worry, all of this took place in the realm of imagination!
James had a blast at Little Stars. I liked it too, because both classes that he attended encouraged him to speak up, make suggestions, and co-operate with others.
It’s an inexpensive and gentle introduction to theatre, and suitable for all as it simply builds on every child’s propensity for make-believe play.
Workshop dates and times can be found in the current Perth Theatre and Perth Concert Hall programme, and a discount is available for block-bookings.
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