Licketyspit is a children’s theatre company which specialises in participative drama-led play for 3-8 year olds and their families. Their children’s rights-based approach is called Storyplay. Virginia Radcliffe, Artistic Director and CEO, has written this #EverydayUnfeartiness blog for us to celebrate National Play Day.
Since I started creating theatre for children in 1998, I have always rooted my work in children’s rights. When I started working on each of my plays, I would go into a nursery and play with children, developing stories with them, learning from their play in order to create work that had meaning for them. Theatre, after all, is simply collective play. And children are the world’s play experts!
“The Dragon came and sucked up the smoke and we could see the sky again!”Child, 3, Heelie-Go-Leerie.
We always say our shows are for everyone from 3-103, because we believe that when it comes down to it, we all need what children need, and when we meet the needs of children, we meet the needs of society. For me, being an Unfeartie is about the conviction that great theatre developed with and for children, is simply great theatre; that the things that children find funny, important and interesting, are just funny, important and interesting; and that we all need to play. Being an Unfeartie is about levelling up children and grown-ups, fostering intergenerational equity – like we do at our Porridge & Play sessions.
At Porridge & Play, a 3 year old can have the ear of a group of as many as 40 children and adults, leading a verse of ‘the Funky Chicken’. An 8 year old can see a lion from their ‘Flying Balloon’ and everyone else will see it with them. A parent can become a dragon with everyone flying on its back. This project is Unfeart because it puts children at the heart of their family and community, raising their status and fostering equity, inclusion and rights. We’ve been delivering these intergenerational Storyplay sessions online and outdoors throughout the pandemic.
“Thank you very much for the opportunity to learn and play with my child. It has been a magical experience.”Parent, Big Porridge & Play Glasgow
“It makes me feel excited and energised”8 year old, Big Porridge & Play Online
Our Storyplay projects began with LicketyLeap, a piece of immersive theatre where 3-5 year olds go on a symbolic journey through the Bog, over the Sea, into the Cave and up the Mountain, to find their Hearts Desire. They go on this journey with Bold Margaret and Worried Margaret, characters developed with children. All the children resonate with one or the other Margaret at the start of the show, but by the end we learn that we all have a bit of a Worried Margaret and Bold Margaret inside of us! Margaret and Margaret (and recently Magnus too!) are not exactly grown-ups, and not exactly children. But they’re Unfearties through and through!
All of our projects are delivered by Licketyspit actor-pedagogues – experienced actors trained in inclusive child-engagement. When we work, we recognise that we are not children. We take children seriously. We never underestimate them. And we draw on the affinity between actors and children as play experts. As Unfearties, we trust that children implicitly know what they need; we just need to listen to them. And for us, that means conversing with them in their language – the language of play.
A recent development of Storyplay is Have Your Say Through Play, where we adapt the Lickety Playcard games to explore different questions and topics that matter to children – from the UNCRC Incorporation Bill, to the Play Strategy Review, to experiences of COVID-19.
“Magic Ball Magic Ball, take us where we want to go!’” So cry the children as we jet off on another Storyplay adventure. And we don’t know where we will go – we never do. This is why we have to be Unfeart. Storyplay is grounded in the drama skills of improvisation so that we can be completely responsive and adaptable to the ideas of the children we’re playing with. They write their own stories in Storyplay, and that is the principle we must all take on as children’s human rights defenders.
So today, and everyday, let’s play for children’s rights!