Working with Children (2018)

A choreographed essay that explores the ethics of working with children and the relationship between language and the (sexualised) body and between naming and authority. This is the first of three versions that interrogate this theme: this iteration about power and its abuses, a conversation about children but not with children.

The idea for this work came a few years ago when I noticed a lot of contemporary performances had young people in them, and the works were being made for an adult audience. I was interested in how the simple presence of a young person could change or amplify the meaning of something, or heighten tension, risk and vulnerability. Children were often used symbolically to either represent the ‘innocence of childhood’ or to debunk this myth of childhood as a social construction. I started out thinking about the moral and ethical complexities of working with children: it’s a heavily regulated process with a lot protocols, and a lot of decisions being made by adults for children. These regulations are designed to protect the young people involved, but often, there is no sense of what it is we are exactly protecting children from and who are these gatekeepers who get to decide. It seemed quite conceivable to me that the adults who worked with children and / or set these standards often behaved very differently in private than they did in public, disproving the idea that adults are rational, strong, stable, authoritative and impervious to vulnerability.

I then I began wondering about the nature of theatre itself, what is it to be looked at, where is the balance of power in a theatrical situation, and whether theatre is a safe space for either children or adults.

Written, Directed & Performed by NICOLA GUNN
Video Design NICK ROUX
Lighting & Spatial Design BOSCO SHAW
Sound Design KELLY RYALL
Costume Design EUGYEENE TEH
Choreography SARAH AIKEN
Script Dramaturg JON HAYNES
Additional Dramaturgy DANIEL SACK

Originally commissioned and produced by Melbourne Theatre Company with the support of Performance Space. Photography by Sarah Walker.