How long is it until I get taller?
Who is in charge of the world?
Is it hard to let go of your past memories?
Last month Gameshow talked to six, seven, eight and nine year olds about growing up. It was the first practical work on our Grown Up project, which won CPT’s People’s Theatre Award this autumn. I run Gameshow with Matt Ryan and together we produce plays and performance projects. For Grown Up, we are joined by Emily Lim, a theatre director with a particular interest in creating high quality work with non-professionals. We spent a day at Netley Primary School, round the corner from the theatre, working and playing with four classes during the day. We ended up with a long list of questions the children would like to ask grown ups – about all sorts of things like getting a job and having babies and lots about body hair.
Do you shave because you look hairy?
Next spring, we’ll put the children’s questions to grown ups who live and work in CPT’s neighbourhood. We want our project to create a dialogue between generations, asking young and old to reflect on their place in the world of the future. We will meet up with locals who contributed to Gameshow’s HS2 Project at CPT back in 2012 and meet new people, enticed to the theatre with coffee and cake. Next, we take the grown ups’ answers to the questions and compile them into a performance text, which will be performed by a child performer at a scratch show as part of CPT’s Sprint festival in March. If we pull it off, we’ll then begin work on creating a full production, working with more schools groups and finding more grown ups to answer their questions.
How much work do you do but if you don’t and you are crazy like me is life bad?
In non zero one’s recent show Mountaineering, I was asked if I considered myself a grown up. My answer was a clear yes. But then I remembered that only a few years ago (five? ten?) I was adamant that I wasn’t grown up and liked it that way. When did that switch happen? It wasn’t having a baby (no thanks), or buying a car (never had one), or getting a mortgage (never will), or any of the things the children of Camden seem to associate with growing up. I can’t remember what I thought as a child it would be like to be a grown up. Maybe this project is a way to try to remember.
When you’re a grown up…
You can’t make mistakes
You have to fight in the war
You feel sad you’re not a child any more
I’m not lucky enough to spend every day with people under ten years old, so some things took me by surprise. We asked every child to write a secret question. This could be something they want to ask a grown up but never would, or a question that’s a bit rude, or something that’s embarrassing for whatever reason. They wrote their secret questions on slips of paper and put them in our secret shoe box, which we promised we would take away with us so their teachers and parents would never know what they asked. Each class clearly grasped the concept of secrecy – people covered their writing with their whole body, hid themselves in corners, screwed up their slips of paper before delivering them into the special box. It came as a bit of a surprise to read what they’d written:
How do you make cake?
How do you build?
Have banana on pizza.
We cannot know what was going through these children’s minds and why these were private thoughts. It’s also difficult for us grown ups to understand a world without questions. I don’t remember learning how to ask a question at school, but a couple of these classes were in the thick of it. ‘Have banana on pizza’, for instance, is not a question. It’s not even really a statement – more like a surreal command. ‘I am scared to skydive’ – another example of a child grappling not only with the world around them, but the grammar with which to ask questions of it. The specificity of these brilliant ideas was unexpected and felt like tiny clues to a child’s view of the grown up world.
Why do adults drink coffee?
What do you do in the bank?
How do people survive in a crevice?