Grown Up blog for London Grip (20.10.16)
Grown Up grew out of a conversation I had with Emily Lim last year. We wanted to create a show whose format could somehow present a conversation between people across different generations. Camden People’s Theatre (CPT) liked the idea so much we won their People’s Theatre Award and we are now co-producing the show together.
Our creative process began by gathering questions about growing up from children. We visited Netley Primary School round the corner from CPT and spent the day harvesting hundreds of questions about the grown up world. The children’s questions ranged from the practical “How do you make cake?” to the unexpected “How do you survive in a crevice?” We also found recurring topics that shed light on how these children understand the process of growing up: you get a job, you get your own home, you get hairy and you have babies.
The next step was to get grown up answers to the children’s questions. We ran a workshop at CPT in which we exchanged tea, coffee and cake for people’s grown-up wisdom. Already the intergenerational conversation raised interesting questions about our responsibility as grown-ups, to tell the next generation what we wished we had heard when we were young, but in language they might understand.
How do you grow?
If you keep your eyes and ears open and think about what you see and hear you will never stop growing.
In a series of interviews, we then gathered more in-depth and personal testimony from people who live near the theatre. Each interviewee answered the same list of questions that eked out the stories of their individual lives and the transcripts became the basis for our performance text. We have spent hours poring over the interviews, trying to catch a sense of each person’s experiences in our script. But our aim was always to create a performance that feels not just personal, but political too.
This term we returned to Netley Primary School to rehearse with our cast of five ten-year-olds. There are tricky choices to be made over including strong language and difficult subjects like loss, divorce and death. These questions of responsibility lead towards the larger political point of how we prepare young people for growing up and what kind of world we are building for the next generation. This is what Grown Up aims to explore – the gap between what we teach children and what they really want to know.