Entertaining a discerning audience of 2- to 4-year-olds is a never-ending challenge for British theatre artist Andy Manley, who is performing in the Auckland Arts Festival this week.
"The 4-year-olds are more literal than adults and they say, 'That doesn't make sense,' and 'Where do the eggs come from?'" said Edinburgh-based Manley, who performs in the highly acclaimed White, which is nearing 1000 performances worldwide.
Presented by the Catherine Wheels theatre company, the show has been described by caregivers as beautiful, innocent and gentle and a perfect first-time theatre experience.
On an all-white set, Manley plays Cotton and his co-deviser and co-performer Ian Cameron is Wrinkle - two friends looking after birdhouses and trying to keep their white world safe from colour.
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The show runs for 35 minutes and afterwards there is a further 15 minutes when the children go on to the set and can pick up coloured items and chat to the actors.
Manley, 46, said he started specialising in shows for small children thinking there was an audience not being catered for.
"I want to make a show that is shorter but visual and has a strong story narrative through it, which 3- and 4-year olds need while the 2-year-olds have more of a visual feast.
"I think all of them get it - it's weird. There is one bit where I have put something in the bin that should not be put there and one of the children stood up and asked, 'Why?'
After performances at 10am and 1.30pm today until Sunday at Q Theatre, the show goes on to the Sydney Opera House for a second time. Other shows on tonight's festival agenda include South Indian theatrical The Kitchen; choral celebration Ata Reira; live music and circus crossover Limbo; concert Lady Sings the Blues; family play The Book of Everything; Chicago hip hop crew's Othello: The Remix (North), and the biographical comedy Bravo Figaro!
On the web: aucklandfestival.co.nz