Chalk About turns on voices of children

By Nathan Crombie nathan.crombie@age.co.nz -
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Performers Christine Devaney and Niels Weijer turn an old playground game into a "playful, funny and often moving look at how we fill in the outlines of each other's identities". PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Performers Christine Devaney and Niels Weijer turn an old playground game into a "playful, funny and often moving look at how we fill in the outlines of each other's identities". PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Greytown School pupils will share the spotlight at Kuranui College today when their voices join those of children from around the globe during the interactive New Zealand Festival performance of Chalk About.

Performers Christine Devaney and Niels Weijer recreate an old playground game during the all ages event, drawing chalk outlines on stage that become "a playful, funny and often moving look at how we fill in the outlines of each other's identities".

Devaney, a Glasgow native now living in Edinburgh, said the likes and dislikes, favourites and fears of children form a central part of the performance and "when we first made Chalk About, myself and the original choreographer wanted to talk to children and asked them what they wanted to see and what they didn't want to see and that was included in the piece".

"Then as the show developed, there was a quiet contemplative moment in the play and we asked children what scared them as well.

"We went a bit deeper and asked what made them angry and what made them sad, and there are very similar things expressed from country to country, and this is across the cultural and environmental differences."

Devaney said the play had now been performed in a dozen countries including Australia, Britain, Germany and Austria.

"In Australia the children were afraid of snakes and spiders but there are universal things they're dealing with like relationships, brothers and sisters. We also discovered most children like pizza."

Devaney said Chalk About started with chalk outlines on paper and developed to where children and performers drew those outlines on stage.

"It's about identity and what you present to the world and what people can see, and can't see; and both children and adults really love it. We've done chalking where children can get in and get messy and don't have to worry about doing anything wrong.

"We tell them to get it wrong and be messy. The chalk comes right off them, their clothes, and the stage."

She said the performance had not "started out from that point of view of being low-tech" but was instead a form of child's play that was entertaining, provocative and amusing for children and adults alike.

A related production with which she was involved had spawned an app, Dance About, "which involves chalking on the screen and live action with the dances".

"Another thing about the show, that was worldwide as well, is the attitude of some adults to a performance they think is for children alone -- then they find that a quality work crosses those boundaries."

A schools-only show was to be staged at Kuranui College in Greytown today at a 1.30pm matinee with tickets costing $18 each.

An on the road performance of Chalk About will be staged at the same venue at 7pm tonight with tickets $39 each for adults and $18 for children.

Quote "Wairarapa Times-Age" at the door to get free entry. Maximum of two free adults per paying child, door sales only. Subject to availability.

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