Tangled Feet are a physical theatre ensemble who have been devising original, accessible and innovative work since 2003. Their latest production, Need A Little Help, explores the experiences of young carers, and is visiting Half Moon Theatre on 16th and 17th January.
It’s playful, thoughtful and takes you into a world full of caring which audiences will recognise in different ways.
Need a Little Help is about being a young carer – looking after a parent or sibling when you are still a child. We have created the show with an audience of children under 10 years old in mind but I think it can be enjoyed more broadly than that and certainly by adults.
Why did you decide to explore the experiences of young carers?
Tangled Feet make work about the world around us and carers are an increasingly marginalised group of people.
Need a Little Help is the first in a trilogy of plays which are part of our ‘Care Season’ – three pieces of theatre that all investigate the role of carers in 21st century Britain.
I understand that you have been working closely with children while developing Need a Little Help.
As a theatre company we work a lot with young people through workshops, residencies and making youth productions – we are inspired by how young people experience the world. We run a Dramatherapy group for young carers in Croydon and were struck by their courage and caring personalities.
We wanted to bear witness to what can be an invisible and isolating experience. The young carers in Croydon have been creative advisors and have been sharing their experiences. We have also been using studies and stories from The Carers Trust.
Can you describe your creative process for the production? Has it differed from other shows?
All our shows are inspired by the world around us and how we try and interpret our human experiences. The difference for this show (from others) has been that a specific group of people were the inspiration.
The process of our shows is one of exploration of a theme. We devise all of our shows so we are making new scenes, characters and atmospheres everyday. For Need a Little Help we have been focusing on role reversal as that is the key factor in young carers- you are looking after someone who would normally look after you. We try to find original and meaningful images, physicality and atmospheres to draw to mind how a young carer and their parent may feel.
The show is described as immersive and sensory – how and why do you involve audiences so directly?
In my experience young people don’t meet the world in a passive way – they involve themselves in it. I felt the show should harness this. Also, we wanted to try and give an opportunity for the audience to feel the pressure and joy of caring for someone – to experience it first hand. We are still working on these elements as they can only really be tested with the audience present so we’ll learn a lot from the show but we feel its important for the young people to not only watch but feel the themes of the play.
Original theatre that is innovative, physical and highly visual, whilst also interpreting the world in which we live. We have a collaborative approach to making plays as an ensemble and this inclusive experience for artists spreads to the audience whom we want to have a meaningful and inclusive experience.
Tangled Feet has been running for 12 years. How have you achieved this longevity?
Being friends – truly caring for each other, allowing changes to happen, people to try new roles and develop the company as people develop. Plus a bucket load of hard work with voluntary hours subsidising the company’s growth.
Why is theatre for young people so important?
In theatre everything is possible. Our imaginations can collectively create some incredible atmospheres and scenarios. When you are growing up you should believe everything is possible – both in life and in your imagination. Theatre also asks us to feel empathy for characters on stage and the situation they are in – when experienced live metres from where you are sitting this empathy is a powerful feeling for a young person.
Need a Little Help is on at the Half Moon Theatre on 16th and 17th January – will it be visiting other theatres?
We hope so. Its an ambitious piece of work – an immersive show on a serious subject for young children – so we always imagined the first performances as tests. It’s common for us to share our shows early then work on them some more before touring them more fully.
What are the next shows in your ‘care season’?
The next show ‘Kicking and Screaming’ tours North East England from March. This is a piece of work about parents- looking at the challenge and intensity of having and also wanting to have children. We then present ‘Care’ at Watford Palace Theatre, the final play of the season, which is about the pressures facing the NHS.
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