Research by Goldsmiths and Birkbeck infant experts has inspired a new musical theatre show designed to literally have its young audience rolling in the aisles. Shake, Rattle and Roll premieres at the Brain Waves Festival this September.
Psychologist Dr Caspar Addyman (InfantLab, Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths) and his Birkbeck Babylab colleagues Sinead Rocha and Rosy Edey worked with Polka Theatre to produce the fun and lively 45-minute performance for children aged 6 – 18 months.
Acclaimed children’s theatre director Sarah Argent was inspired by their research into how and why babies laugh, move, and read body language, and designed a theatrical experience to get a young audience wiggling and giggling.
Shake, Rattle and Roll is part of the Brain Waves Festival, a new event for children and their families which spans theatre, science and learning, focusing on the latest advances in the study of child brain development.
From 21 Sep – 2 Oct Polka presents a programme of theatre productions, workshops and participatory activities, alongside talks and discussions for adults, scientists and artists.
Each performance of Shake, Rattle and Roll includes a short dance and play session at the end, and throughout the shows Sinead will be investigating infants' spontaneous natural rhythm.
Dr Addyman is a developmental psychologist interested in learning, laughter and behaviour change. The majority of his widely-publicised research is with babies.
He explains: "Baby theatre is something new for me but I couldn't resist the idea of a play for babies about baby science. I've learned a lot from collaborating with Sarah Argent and the team at Polka theatre. The challenges we face are rather similar - holding a baby's attention and leading them through something new and unfamiliar. I can't wait to see how babies like the show.
One important first principle that seems to be shared by baby psychologists and baby theatre makers is that we both treat babies as full citizens. Theatre for babies is not theatre for adults but smaller. And science for babies is not science for adults but simpler.
“Baby psychologists are not simply cataloguing when various abilities come online. For us, babyhood is not merely a way-station to something better. We care about what it is like to be a baby. We try to understand babies from the inside. In theatre for babies, the ambitions seem to be the same.”
Sarah Argent adds: “What was so exciting about this project was that, while as makers of baby theatre we are well-versed in close and detailed observation of babies while they are observing rehearsals or performances, the level of scientific clarity with which our scientists could describe the babies' responses and analyse why the babies' were responding in a particular way at their particular age took things to a deeper level.”
The Festival is supported by a Wellcome Trust People Award.
Brain Waves: Shake, Rattle and Roll, A Polka Theatre Production, runs at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon. Times vary. Tickets: £12.50 / Concessions and previews £9.00.
Tickets are available from the Polka Theatre website and by calling 020 8543 4888.