There’s a new children’s artistic programme in town, with a variety of productions being organised by Culture Venture and Teatru Salesjan. Ramona Depares interviews Toni Attard, the brains behind it.
How was the idea for a children’s programme at Teatru Salesjan born?
The idea of Nuna Palk emerged after the creative team of Teatru Salesjan and Culture Venture discussed the idea of developing a regular children’s theatre season. In the past years, Teatru Salesjan has taken a new lease of life with different artistic events from live jazz sessions to comedy shows attracting audiences from across Malta.
The time was right to pilot the idea of presenting theatre shows that bring together children and their families through the whimsical world of the performing arts. The name of the season, Nuna Palk, is a play on the Maltese words for kindergarten and stage and luna park. Nuna Palk is a playground that inspires the creative development of children.
What is the scope behind it?
The programme reflects the objective of the community theatre to connect all different communities through creativity while establishing the theatre building as a centre of culture primarily for the young.
Teatru Salesjan wants to encourage young families, including the grandparents, to share and enjoy the arts together. To support this vision, grandparents will be able to attend Nuna Palk for free with family block tickets purchased for any of the productions.
From an artistic point of view, Nuna Palk provides artists with the opportunity to expand their own performance repertoire by revisiting and developing their own productions.
What can you tell us about the productions that will be held?
The first season of Nuna Palk will present Maltese productions originally commissioned by ŻiguŻajg international festival for children and young people.
Ernesto & Bianca will be presented from March 16 to 18 and is recommended for children aged seven plus. A morning performance for schools will be presented on March 16.
In April, Nuna Palk presents Blooming Creatures by Moveo Dance Company, nominated for the 2017 Best Artist of the Year in the Premju għall-Arti.
Blooming Creatures explores how various living creatures interact with their surrounding environment, through dance. Each creature develops a unique interaction with its surrounding habitat depending on its requirements, be it nutrition, oxygen or for the mere form of survival. The production will be presented on April 7 and 8 and is recommended for children aged five plus.
The last production for the season will be Land of the Big Word Factory by Teatru Anon, in an English adaptation of the album La grande fabrique de mots, written by Agnes de Lestrade and illustrated by Valeria Docampo.
Do you believe there is enough of a demand for specialist children’s theatre in Malta?
Theatre for young people in Malta is increasing in popularity. More companies are creating original work and creating a diverse portfolio of works. When I started my role as artistic director of ŻiguŻajg, some artists and companies needed to be convinced that creating work for young audiences is as exciting, creative and artistically challenging as any other show. The situation now has changed – performances for young audiences have increased and audiences are responding positively.
The work of the arts sector to engage new audiences is ongoing. Embedding the idea of attending theatre as a family event may still be a new experience to many families.
Nuna Palk is another contributor and the only one outside Valletta to provide a dedicated programme for the growing community of families who are searching for artistic and alternative events to share with the children. Hopefully, this momentum will increase to a level that, one day, we will have a theatre venue that is 100 per cent dedicated to young audiences.
Is there any way that schools will be roped in/encouraged to participate in Nuna Palk?
Two productions are being offered to schools and the response so far has been great. The focus of the programme is to make theatre a family event, similar to the idea that reading should not be limited to school work but understood as an enjoyable and leisurely experience.
What is the biggest challenge in getting kids to frequent artistic events?
Parents are important catalysts for the creative development of children and, on this occasion, the parents or grandparents would need to bring them. Parents often take a lead in deciding on how to spend time together as a family and with whom they will share the different activities over the weekend.
We encourage them to consider theatre as a possibility because it provides them with a fun, safe and inspirational space for the family. Introducing children to the diversity of the arts and providing them with creative stimuli for their personal development is a beautiful and essential part of parenthood. In addition, each production is a great opportunity to explore a new artistic genre or discuss a theme or follow up with other activities.
Children may be encouraged to develop their own story after the performance or build their own puppet or create a dance inspired by what they would have just seen.
The focus of theatre for young audiences remains the child, even though adults will be equally engaged in the performances.
Despite Malta’s reputation when it comes to children and the arts, ŻiguŻajg events haves always been sold out – to what do you attribute this success?
Great and diverse programming across different genres and age groups, the ability to create a unique festival environment and the general artistic energy that Maltese and visiting artists give so generously to the audiences.
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