The pandemic made us all reassess what was important to us. For a group of seven to 11 year olds in Ellesmere Port that list included smiles, honey bees, pizzas, clouds and flowers.
Over a hundred audience members gathered in the amphitheatre in the middle of Ellesmere Port’s Whitby Park this summer. They had come for a huge family event – the Theatre Porto’s Topsy Turvy weekend – featuring thrilling indoor and outdoor performances, acrobatics, mesmerising dance, enchanting puppetry and awe-inspiring aerial performance on a giant swing.
But the first performance of the weekend was to be the most special of all. The entertainers – a noisy group of seven-11 year olds.
Gathering around a big pile of pizza boxes, with a rather delicious looking (cardboard) pizza inside, the children delivered, with gusto, a song they had written and rehearsed.
The first square of chocolate
Going to my favourite restaurant
A smile from a passerby that I pass on to another passerby
And then I pass on to another passer by
And then I pass on
And suddenly everyone is smiling.
They just can’t help it.
The Drama Droplets are a children’s theatre group who came together at Theatre Porto for a week leading up the performance. Part of Cheshire West and Cheshire Council’s Covid-19 Reflections programme, their mission was to create a Great, Big, Little Parade – the result of their own reflections on the pandemic.
Armed with trombones and drums, the children began their march from the playground towards the theatre – their hungry audience in tow. On their journey they practiced what they preached and spread their smiles around the park.
In the lead up to the event they had worked with associate director Phil Cross to create their performance. They designed, built and decorated large puppets for the parade, including huge smiles, honey bees, pizzas, clouds and flowers – the little things that they decided were important to them.
“This came from conversations we were having in the development stages of this project,” Phil says, “about what we felt we have learned during and after the pandemic, what we missed during Covid and what we are more grateful for now.”
Playing and socialising with their new friends – things that children sorely missed during lockdown – were an important part of the rehearsal process. But there was plenty of hard work too – writing a script, learning the words, choreographing and practising dances and learning to play their noisy instruments harmoniously to a rhythm.
As the parade reached the pond at Whitby Park, however, the Drama Droplets turned uncharacteristically quiet.
“We encouraged the audience to close their eyes and join us in listening to the noises of the park,” explains Phil. “Together we noted the sound of bees, distant traffic, the scrape of a skateboard, quacking ducks and the breeze through the trees.”
The parade marched on to the back of the Theatre Porto and its newly erected outdoor platform, where the children continued the list of little things that count. After playing a huge board game with a giant dice, and getting the audience involved, finally the Drama Droplets gathered everyone at the front of the building and finished with a final thought and reprise of their opening song.
It’s so easy.
And so powerful.
Kindness is the easiest thing to do
It’s also the thing that can make the biggest difference.
“One of our key themes for the performance was Let’s Take Up space, Let’s Make Some Noise, and we certainly achieved that,” says Phil. “The children all had a lovely time throughout the week and though they showed signs of nervousness before the performance, they were all beaming from ear to ear by the end of it.
Photo by David Sejrup
“It was a great opening to our Topsy Turvy event at Theatre Porto and the participants all stuck around afterwards – joining in with the other activities and watching performances by professional companies.”