A girl shrieks with delight as Harry, the hedgehog, nips at her tiny hand and her classmates are covered with dried leaves scattered by Leila.

Leila has lost her doll Rosie and is hopping from one season to another on a mission to find her.

Bonnie, the Dodo bird, has offered to help and, as the two travel through the seasons in search of Rosie, they meet Harry, the hedgehog, Rambo, the rabbit, Ollie, the octopus, and Oscar, the owl.

The gang takes the audience through a multi-sensory adventure penned by Rebecca Debattista, produced by the Manoel Theatre’s educational programme for children, Toi Toi, in collaboration with St Clare’s College, San Miguel Primary Education Resource Centre and funded by Kreattiv.

Featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the 50-minute adventure urges children to “think with their senses and never give up”.

They first meet Leila (Charlotte Grech) in summer, crying on the beach to the sound of lapping waves. Bonnie (Bettina Paris) decides to help Leila.

The adventure takes place in four rooms on two floors and the children follow Leila as she rushes from one place to another, meeting a new animal character (Justin Mamo) every season.

Every space is dressed up in the smells, colours and sounds of each season and the children are encouraged to interact with the props and the characters.

The multi-sensory aspect of the adventure was especially beneficial for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties, director Rosetta Debattista, a music therapist, told Times of Malta yesterday during the third per­formance at the Studio Theatre in Old Mint Street, Valletta.

The audience, made up of young students from the San Miguel Primary Education Resource Centre and the St Julian’s Primary School, included children with complex needs.

The San Miguel Centre hosts 21 students with profound and multiple learning difficulties, and provides services to more than 40 others from mainstream schools.

Every week for the past three months, the musicians (Maria Conrad, Joanna Aquilina, Simon Abdilla Joslin and Dru Mayer) who took part in the Reason for the Season adventure at the Studio Theatre went to the San Miguel Centre to interact with the students so that, during the final production, they could relate to them despite the new environment.

The students also helped make the props for the final sets. In all, the team produced six performances, with the last two today.

Josephine Mamo, who heads the San Miguel Centre, said similar sessions of multi-sensory storytelling were held at her school and children who did not have complex needs and had never met a disabled peer understood that, although people were different, they could still play and learn together.

Supported by Bank of Valletta, Toi Toi is the Manoel Theatre’s educational programme, which was started by Ms Debattista in 2011 in a bid to bring young audiences closer to the world of arts.

It organises concerts for babies, toddlers and young children and leads the Manoel’s Youth Theatre project for those from 16 to 20.



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