A bright Spark for the theatre

6th April 2007 at 01:00
Like those Christmas cracker puzzles where you have to get the little SILVER BALLS into tiny saucers, getting young people into theatres is a regular tease for theatre managers. Make that "young people from disadvantaged areas" and it's doubly frustrating.

This week, the Lyceum has been one of seven theatres across the UK and the Republic of Ireland joining in a Spark project to attempt just that.

More than 50 schools are involved altogether, and the Lyceum's choice in Edinburgh are Castleview, Broomhouse, St Joseph's, Craigroyston, Burdiehouse and Sighthill primaries and Canonmills special school.

The primaries began with a visit to the Lyceum Christmas show, to be gobsmacked by its 19th-century opulence and charmed by the story of Pinocchio.

This kick-started their five-week classes on making and operating rod puppets, led by three professional puppeteers. Given the basic principles of construction, the children were allowed to choose the characters for their puppets, with entertaining results.

The end of the first stage was celebrated last week in each of the six schools, with short performances and displays by the pupils to show what they had achieved. The shows were open to friends and families of the performers, to encourage parents and maybe just wave the Lyceum flag a bit more.

The Canonmills pupils, being a little older, needed something slightly different. That was supplied by some classes in Capoeira, described by administrator Libby Brown as "a kind of peaceful martial art". It is the "self-defence" of martial arts, claiming a kinship with music and dance.

All the teachers involved are able to benefit from continuing professional development with accreditation - perhaps a first in martial arts.

Spark is an international arts initiative, co-ordinated by the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and funded by Provident Financial for a three-year period.

The Lyceum will now pursue the next stage of the project with the same (and other) children in the selected schools.

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