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Children's shows: Don't miss the catch of the year

The Catch children's theatre festival
Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith
February 23-April 26

Catch. You can catch a ball or an idea. Let's ignore colds and think instead of enthusiasms. Or perhaps a catch on a door which opens on to a new world. Rachel Clare, curator of The Catch, the two-month-long festival of children's theatre at the Lyric in west London, thought carefully about that title. It could also represent the way she has netted work that "represents the best in theatre and across the arts, from Europe and further afield, which is not saccharine or Disney-fied".

It is particularly important to Ms Clare that adults should not feel excluded. She paints a most undesirable picture from her own experience of a dad doing his duty of a Saturday morning by taking children to see a performance but remaining resolutely uninvolved, probably reading the
sports pages in the back row. Just let anyone try (or want) to do that during John Hegley's hilarious My Dog is a Carrot. Wild fantasy, punning poems, audience participation in making a poet-tree in a show solemnly delivered by Mr Hegley, his funnyserious face decorated with the trademark
specs, has everyone falling off chairs.

John Hegley is in The Catch in early March. As a programmer of outdoor events, including, from 1992 to 1998, the Great Outdoors, a summer-long festival on the South Bank in London, Ms Clare knows it is possible to engage several age groups simultaneously more often than some people
might think. She was frustrated by "insulting and insubstantial work for children and the way it is marginalised" when she wanted suitable shows for her own two children. As a child herself she travelled the world with her teacher parents and was used to seeing performances and religious rituals in foreign cultures from Ethiopia to Jamaica. So there is something in The Catch for everyone over six months old.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

To read this review in full see this week's Friday magazine.

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