‘Theatre is a playground for the senses’

Show introduces children to string music through storytelling animation at the Manoel
Benji Cachia interacting with children during the first show in the Baby Series this season. Photo: Elisa von Brockdorff

A new show introducing children to string music through storytelling animation is taking place at the Manoel Theatre this weekend.

Baby Series: Strings, Song and Stories forms part of the Manoel Theatre’s Toi Toi Learning and Participation Programme and is mainly aimed at children up to four years of age.

“Our youngest audience is by far the most precious to our programme,” Kate Fenech Field, the programme’s manager, says.

“Between the ages of zero to five years, a child’s brain develops faster than at any other time in their life. Stimulation for this brain development creates millions of connections such as the relationship between the things they hear, see, touch, smell and taste,” she notes. 

“Theatre is a playground for the senses and it is through careful age-specific work that we nurture and ignite a love of curiousness for the arts and all the many strands of learning which come from them.”

She claims that even a six-month old baby would enjoy the simple storytelling through gentle visual and audio stimuli, although they mainly see children above the age of 18 months.

“It is through careful age-specific work that we nurture and ignite a love of curiousness for the arts”

The first show in the Baby Series featured percussionist Benji Cachia, who encouraged parents to bring along wooden spoons and plastic bowls as at-home drums.

“The idea behind the show was to spark a love of body percussion and feeling the pulse of the music, the rhythm of simple words and so on,” Fenech Field explains.

A more recent production showcased work by Clare Ghigo and Luc Houtcamp, namely Opera Bites: Opera-tion Mozart-ilium! where electro music met opera on a spaceship journey which happened to be set to Mozart opera arias.

“Children are much more open to contemporary art and music than we assume; they are so open-minded and love to experience new things,” the programme manager says.

Clare Ghigo and Luc Houtcamp in Opera Bites: Opera-tion Mozart-ilium. Photo: Sebio Aquilina

Now it’s the turn of Strings, Songs and Stories, the protagonist of which is Red, a fearless forest explorer who embarks on wacky adventures and meets quite a few quirky characters along the way.

The show will feature four of Malta’s finest young string musicians from the Malta Youth Orchestra – Nicholas Conrad, Emily Micallef, Lucas Garcia Conrad and Matthias Conrad − music from Disney, Stranger Things, Taylor Swift, opera and Eurovision, and TOI TOI Collective artist Michaela Agius (Teatru Manoel Opera Galas, Hakuna Matata).

Parents and guardians are urged to participate and are bound to “rediscover their inner child”.

“Parents are actively encouraged to mirror movements and visual cues from the artists on stage. We all feel very pleased when parents join in and see how much their participation impacts their child’s willingness to join in,” Fenech Field points out.

She adds that her team is constantly communicating with the parents and childcare professionals to strike the right balance when curating such shows.

“The audience is growing, currently at around 60 per cent. TOI TOI have worked very hard to regain and improve audience numbers post-COVID. The feedback has been incredible and is most encouraging for the future of our programme,” she says enthusiastically.

Baby Series: Strings, Songs and Stories is taking place at the Manoel’s Studio Theatre in Valletta on March 31 and April 1 at 9.30am and 11am. For tickets, click here.

Read more Child articles here.

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