After working alongside Les Enfants Terribles for nine years, Les Petits has become a theatre company in its own right. Formed in 2013 by the producers of Les Enfants Terribles, James Seager and Oliver Lansley, their main aim as a company is to create inspiring and entertaining children’s theatre. I caught up with James Seager about Les Petits’ work and why children’s theatre is important today.
‘I had a little baby girl, this was six years ago. So, I was taking her to see quite a lot of kid’s shows and there’s actually a lot of good kids shows out there. We saw some good stuff but there was some stuff that was little bit lazy. So, what we wanted to do, was to do exactly what we did for Les Enfants Terribles – for adult audiences – but to take that to kids. So, that was the main starting point, being a little bit frustrated as an audience member and seeing kids shows for the first time.’ explains Seager.
Les Petits aims to produce its kids shows just like the adult shows created for Les Enfants Terribles. ‘The main thing that we didn’t want to do is to patronise children because they will take on a lot more than you think. Being a father I am reading stories to my daughter a lot and some of them are pretty gruesome! We have lots of interesting ideas that go into all our shows whether that be puppetry, physical theatre, music or dance. Obviously we do make it lighter for a kid’s show compared to Les Enfants Terribles show. But the approach is very much the same as with our adult’s shows, but with the aim of making it fun and not patronising kids.’ This approach to their work is what make Les Petits shows unique.
Adult shows and children’s do differ though, as Seager explains, ‘Sometimes with our adult shows we can have an incredibly impressive puppet onstage and you know that the audience will be impressed with the skill and the art of that particular puppet. But with kids they just take it as read, which is great! You put a dinosaur onstage – for example the dinosaur we have in the show Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaur – and the kids just accept it. They won’t be impressed by how that dinosaur is made or anything like that. There’s a real honesty to it.’ He continues, ‘Also, in an hours show, if you are playing to three to five year olds you have to keep their attention and keep them interested the whole time. The actors have to work hard at that, if the kids are getting bored they will let their parents know!’
Seager thinks children’s theatre is very important saying that, ‘It’s sometimes their first chance to see a show in a theatre. It’s that first ever experience so if you get it right, it’ll inspire them and that can set them up for life. It’s important for not only the creativity and to get them into theatre but it’s for the future as well; it keeps that love of theatre there.’
Les Petits will be doing a four month tour of Finn and the Pirate Dinosaurs starting in February. Then they will be doing a cross collaboration with Les Enfants Terribles. ‘We are doing a huge Alice in Wonderland project. Les Enfants Terribles are doing a version of Alice in Wonderland, which is called Alice’s Adventures Underground. As part of that we are also doing a kids version of that show called Adventures in Wonderland, which is the Les Petits show, running in March.’ says Seager.
There’s even interest for Les Petits to tour in Australia! ‘It is really exciting and we would really like to tour that abroad, to places in America, Australia or even Europe. We are also looking for our next project for Les Petits, whether that will be an adaptation of a kid’s book, like Finn and the Pirate Dinosaurs, or whether it’s something original that Ollie (Lansley) writes. So next year we will be doing a new kids show and hopefully touring that!’ If the success of Les Enfants Terribles is anything to go by, Les Petits is definitely going to be a company to look out for in the future!
Les Petits’ Captain Flinn and the Pirates Dinosaurs is playing until May 31. See their website for more details.