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The Thought That Counts

Published April 17, 2008

The Young Genius season, co-produced by the Barbican and Young Vic, turns its eyes towards today’s young geniuses with theatre-rites new show for children The Thought That Counts. Being little more than an over-sized kid himself, Matthew Amer went along to the press night (which was more of a press morning, due to the age of the target audience)…

“Are there any scary bits?” one slightly dubious young audience member was heard to exclaim before entering the Barbican Pit for possibly his first taste of theatre. Luckily for him – and me, if the truth be told – there weren’t. In fact, what theatre-rites presents for the audience is a thought-provoking tale about thoughts.

From gaps in a curtained backdrop, different-sized white spheres appear, each, handily, with an actor attached. The spheres – not dissimilar to something you would expect to see in The Prisoner, but far less threatening – become thought-bubbles which lead the audience into the different childhoods of the stage performers.

Though the stage itself is quite sparse and the props are generally nothing more than white balls, the stories told are both varied and imaginative. Video images are projected onto the plain orbs, transforming them into works of art, the moon and even transporting the actors inside the balls. Atmospheric music and sounds, from ‘boings’ to calm-inducing sounds of space, accompany the action. The multi-talented performers move from being actors, musicians and dancers to puppeteers as they gain a highly lovable inflatable friend, whom they play with, try to teach to juggle and take on a space-walk.

It’s not just an inflatable friend that gets to play with the actors. The company engage the gathered children with the question “What should it be to be a child?” The answers today ranged from “be nice to each other” to a very grown-up “tidy up after yourself”. The biggest ball of all – the thought-bubble that belonging to the gathered crowd – actually made its way into the gleeful audience at one point.

Whether there were any young geniuses in the audience today, would be hard to tell, but every child was transfixed by the action; laughing, cheering or shouting ideas, but also, most impressively, remaining pin-droppingly silent when mesmerised by the show.

The Thought That Counts plays at the Barbican Pit as part of the Young Genius season until 5 November.

MA

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