It was just a whimsical idea really….. a small part of a show based on a whimsical notion. Whimsy has been somewhat out of fashion for a while…………..
So this is how it goes: The wind blows a lollipop lady’s sign away. A magic hat enables her fantasy of being a pirate to come true and she looks for the lollipop on a tropical island. The wind changes direction and blows the ship to the Arctic where she meets a concertina-playing polar bear sitting alone on an iceberg. He is next to the lollipop which he has mistaken for the North Pole. She claims her missing equipment and sails away, using her sign to stop a shark eating the little fishes. The magical hat which enables the wearer to realise their dreams lands on the polar bear’s head. He wishes it would get colder, so the iceberg won’t melt, and sure enough, it snows.
I wrote this scenario five years ago, mainly attracted by the sadness of the lonely bear in the vast wilderness, although I was aware of the issue of global warming which was just starting to enter the popular consciousness. Bringing the show back now, I fear it looks like I’m on a soapbox. Although I’ve been a Green-supporter for 30 years, I personally have little time for, wait a minute , no………I detest shows for small children which are overtly issue-based. Why? because it’s not the children’s’ fault the world is in such a mess. It’s really no good dumping our guilt of inaction, or of of our inept attempts at action, upon the bright optimistic young minds of the next generation. That’s not to say I don’t realise the responsibility of performing for children, it’s just that my priorities are different and I choose to focus on other aspects of influence beyond the narrative.
There’s lots of other sequences in “Head in the Clouds” where dreams come true, but to describe them would only repeat my main point which is the tendency to look for the “message” in a story, and even a moral. I don’t know which straight-laced Victorian insisted all stories should contain an improving moral, but the legacy of that idea still resonates, and because of it people sometimes miss the underlying nourishing themes of stories, and look for a more superficial interpretation based on what happens, rather than why it happens. Added to this is the simpler but powerful effect a good theatre visit can have on a young audience, which is to see someone doing something unusual and wonderful (and live!), and to realise that many other options are available beyond the alienating screens that provide the bulk of their stimulus. Pretentious? It is after all just glove puppet show. Well, the power of this form to the 4-8 age range is immense, and sensitively performed it can be unforgettable.
And the moral of this story is………