Working with Children III (2020)

Three very different iterations of a work asking the same question: what are we protecting children from?

Working with Children (2020) is a choreographic essay and iterative work that looks at the ethics of working with children in contemporary performance. It is a show that says one thing, and does another.

Against a projected text that sits behind and above the children´s heads as a flow of continuous surtitles, 7 children create choreography live in front of the audience. Their movement at times corresponds – either by accident, suggestion, or association – with the written language, allowing the work of the children to constantly slide in and out of focus. The essay follows the fictional threads of a complaint made by a parent, interwoven with reflections on safe spaces, the virtue of advisory warnings, the processes of cultural production, the effect of language on the body and a very real biography of shame. The piece is insisting on vulnerability, and orbits around an imploding text made up of whirlwinds of thought all caught up in each other: what can we say, what can’t we say, who can say it, and who cannot?

The working methodology involves a series of 4 workshops, each approximately 2.5 hours long, with local children aged 11 – 13 years leading up to the performance, following a preliminary meeting. The workshops can take place over consecutive days prior to the performance or over consecutive weekends. The public performance is treated as a continuation of the workshop process, so in effect, the audience really are watching children working. The workshops are designed to deal with the same questions that essay asks, but in a different way. It is education through participation and socio-pedagogic art.

My approach to this work and to choreographic strategies in particular was the desire to create conditions for liveness and the unrehearsed moment, and subsequently risk and vulnerability. The projected essay behind the children’s heads creates a neat and precise container (and 5 act structure, comparable to a classical tragedy) for the “unpredictable material” that happens on stage: the children, myself in relation to the children and our collective choreography that is made in real time and refreshes every performance.

Written & Directed by NICOLA GUNN
Performance & Choreography NICOLA GUNN and 7 CHILDREN
Sound Design DUANE MORRISON
Lighting Design NICOLA GUNN and HANS SKOGEN
Costume Design NATALIE SEIFERT ELIASSEN
Production Management & Lighting Re-Draw GWEN GILCHRIST

Working with Children is a co-production between BIT Teatergarasjen, Rosendal Teater and Carte Blanche and supported by Bergen Kommune, Norsk Kulturråd and Bergen Dansesenter.