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Children’s theatre show tours Northern Ireland

Thursday 20th August 2020 at 11am 0 Comments Youth Arts , Drama

Replay Theatre Company's latest production, COCO Image: Replay Theatre Company's latest production, COCO

A converted transit van isn’t the normal setting for the theatre but one local arts organisation has taken this unusual approach to bring a very special performance to children at home.

Founded over 30 years ago, Replay Theatre Company creates all kinds of shows for the youngest of children right up to teens, it’s probably best known for its work with children with profound and multiple learning disabilities and complex needs. Funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, its ambitions are driven by the belief that all children should have access to high quality theatre experiences.

Its latest production COCO is a story about a small koala and his adventures through the jungle. Written and performed by Mary McGurk and directed by Andrew Stanford, who also composed the sound design for the show, it is a full sensory experience, set against a brightly colored, feathery backdrop, designed to immerse the audience into COCO’s rainforest home.

Throughout August Replay has been touring Northern Ireland in their van to bring COCO to children at home. Each performance is for just one child and their family, creating a very different and intimate theatre experience.

Andrew Stanford explains:

“This show is unique in how it’s been put together. It’s quite something to see the van pull up outside a house and within a few minutes it become a stage.”

Each performance lasts 25 minutes and to minimise the Covid-19 risk, a Perspex screen separates the performer from the audience, who is seated in cosy area beneath a covered gazebo.

“We been very mindful of COVID-19 in all of our planning,” says Andrew. “This is a pioneering show and it’s allowed us to explore a new format for delivering the high-quality, inclusive experiences our audiences have come to expect from Replay. We are very proud inclusive practice remains at the forefront of innovative thinking within the arts, especially since our young audiences are among the most at-risk members of society and are likely to feel the ongoing impact of social distancing restrictions longer than most.”

Replay receives annual funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to support its year round programme of activities. Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Dance and Drama Officer at the Arts Council, says supporting organisations like Replay to find new ways of working while still delivering quality arts experiences for all is now more important than ever:

“It’s widely acknowledged that the arts can have a really positive impact on our emotional wellbeing and our mental health. So it is vital, particularly during the pandemic, that the Arts Council continues to support organisations like Replay to develop new ways of working to ensure everyone can benefit from the arts.”

COCO will conclude its current tour this week and reflecting on the production Andrew says he believes this show will leave a lasting impression on the company: “Over the last number of months, we’ve had to think about how we can continue to produce high-quality, meaningful theatre experiences during the pandemic and I think we’ve done that with COCO and now we are thinking about using this new way of working in future productions. It’s been challenging but I think we have all learnt a lot from this experience.”


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