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Play On: why theatre is so good for modern kids

When it comes to capturing little hearts and minds, you can’t beat a trip to the theatre. Hall For Cornwall's Helen Tiplady tells us why children’s theatre matters more than ever

I absolutely love date nights with my son to the theatre. We’ve seen a few shows at Hall For Cornwall in the past year, including Jack and the Beanstalk and Babe and he was transfixed and animated through both, riding a rollercoaster of emotions and talking about the stories for weeks afterwards. Flatulent pigs aside, I feel pretty good about giving him these early cultural experiences and there’s evidence to prove they benefit him in lots of ways – from improving literacy to encouraging imagination.

Babe at Hall For Cornwall, Children's Theatre

Photo by Darren Bell

With a full programme of shows for all ages and thriving youth theatre and dance companies, Hall For Cornwall is committed to children’s theatre – whether that means getting young people on to the stage or into the stalls. Their annual, in-house Christmas Show is legendary in the Duchy and there are diverse and exciting performances throughout the year for audiences of all ages.

I caught up with Helen Tiplady, Head of Arts Development at Hall For Cornwall, to get her unique insight and top tips on which shows to catch in the coming months…


Why is a trip to the theatre so special?

It’s just not the same as watching something on the TV or in the cinema. Going out to the theatre with your parents or another special grown-up is something that children remember. From the anticipation to the lights and music, the whole experience creates special memories that stay with them.

At the theatre, children emotionally engage in the story in a much more intense way because it’s happening right there in front of them. Plus there’s that understanding that the people on the stage can see and hear them too.

The Gruffalo at Hall For Cornwall, Children's Theatre

Can it be educational? Even the silly bits?

Absolutely, theatre provides rich cultural experience. It’s all about seeing different stories, from other cultures and times and exposing children to people and walks of life they may not usually see.

And for children who become involved in the theatre as adults, seeing the drama live on stage might be what sparks their passion and sets them on their path.

Youth Dance Company Hall For Cornwall, performance in the landscape

Photo by Sean Hurlock

What if my kids are noisy and JUST. WON’T. SIT. STILL!?

Theatres are generally really well set up for children. We expect noise and excited chatter in children’s shows.

Don’t worry if your kids make comments and want to talk about the show as it goes on. In fact, some performances actively encourage getting up and joining in.

Youth Theatre Company at Hall For Cornwall, Truro

Photo by Steve Tanner

If your child seems to have a flair for drama or dance, how would you suggest parents encourage that?

Youth theatre and dance companies like ours are a great place to start. The youth theatre company at Hall For Cornwall starts from age seven (to 21) and children with little or no experience are welcome to come and give it a go at a trial session, then you can sign up termly.

Sessions are pretty well all-day on Saturdays or Sundays for the youth dance company. The children who come get the chance to be part of putting on a show, working together towards a professional goal. It’s great for their confidence and provides a safe pace – outside of school and exam pressure – for them to excel in their own way.

The pride in the parents’ faces when they see how brilliant their children are on stage at the end of term is really moving to see.

Youth Dance Company at Hall For Cornwall, Truro

Photo by Sean Hurlock

Do the youth companies help launch careers?

About half of the young people who come through our youth companies go on to do something in dance or theatre, going off to study at places like Rada and Rambert.

Occasionally parents do worry about the uncertain future their children might face in theatre or dance and for those young artists, we can help them gain professional experience and support their goals.

The arts scene in Cornwall is also really supportive, so there is often the chance to set our talented young people up with work experience, shadowing opportunities and parts in our in-house shows.


And finally, what should we bring the kids to in the next few months?

Our children’s theatre programme has something for all ages and interests. Here are some shows that are coming to Hall For Cornwall soon…


Bring cultured teens to Tin Drum

“Often hailed as one of the greatest novels ever written, Gunter Grass’ surreal post-war masterpiece has never been more prescient. Kneehigh will retell this extraordinary story of love, war and fizz powder as startling musical satire: part Baroque opera, part psychedelic white-out, part epic poem. A burlesque, a blitzkrieg, a tidal wave about to break.”

Age recommendation 14+

Tues 21 – Sat 25 Nov 2017


Bring the whole family to Sleeping Beauty

“Edward ‘Kernow King’ Rowe and Granville Saxton return in this year’s Christmas show, Sleeping Beauty, the final chapter in a trilogy of adventures featuring our much loved Cornishman, Kenwyne and his extended family. Disaster has befallen the Kingdom of King Mark. Beloved Princess Rose has been struck down by an ancient curse which forces her to sleep for an eternity, the King is nowhere to be seen and sinister forces are plotting to take his power. What we need is a hero!”

Tues 5 – Sun 31 Dec 2017


Bring little jokers to Awful Auntie

“From the award-winning producers of Gangsta Granny comes the world premiere of David Walliams’ amazing tale of frights, fights and friendship, featuring a very large owl, a very small ghost and a very awful Auntie!”

Age recommendation: 5+

Thurs 25 – Sun 28 Jan 2018


Bring teenyboppers to The Little Mix Experience

“If you’re a fan of one of X Factor’s finest exports you’re sure to L.O.V.E. the Little Mix Experience! Four hugely talented girls pay tribute to one of the UK’s finest girl bands. With breathtaking dance moves, replica costumes and some of the finest vocals in the UK, this is a high-energy show from beginning to end, packed with all of Little Mix’s greatest hits and suitable for all ages!”

Thurs 1 Feb 2018


Bring live-wires to Charge

“Premiering in October 2017, Charge, Motionhouse’s incredible new multi-media show is about energy – an exciting fusion of art and science. From the electrical charge that sparks human life, to the beating of our hearts and the memories we make, six performers use dance and acrobatics to delve deep into the human body, tracing the incredible story of energy in our lives.”

Fri 2 & Sat 3 Mar 2018


Bring fairytale lovers to The Nutcracker

“Truro School’s Senior Jazz Orchestra join Duchy Ballet for this 20th Anniversary. One enchanted Christmas Eve, Clara creeps downstairs for one of her presents and finds herself in a night of magical adventures. She falls in love with the Nutcracker who battles the Mouse King alongside the toy soldiers that have come to life.”

Thu 8 – Sat 10 Mar 2018


Bring intrepid pre-schoolers to Dinosaur World

“Dare to experience the dangers and delights of Dinosaur World in this jurassic adventure, live on stage. Meet a host of impressive creatures, including every child’s favourite flesh-eating giant, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Triceratops, Giraffatitan, Microraptor and Segnosaurus!”

Age recommendation: 3+

Mon 2 & Tues 3 Apr 2018


Bring enquiring minds to Brainiac Live!

“More mischievous than ever before Brainiac Live! will take you on a breathless ride through the wild world of the weird and wonderful. Expect exploding dustbins, combusting microwaves and loads of live daredevil stunts! Watch from the safety of your seat as the Brainiacs delve fearlessly into the mysteries of science and do all of those things on stage that you’re too scared to do at home!”

Age recommendation: 6+

Wed 4 Apr 2018

Find more ideas here


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