Chalk About dances gently through some complex themes, exploring emotions and identity with a childlike simplicity that connects with all ages.
Christine Devaney and Hendrik Lebon of Curious Seed were busily drawing in chalk all over the black floor of the stage as the audience took their seats. Children, already intrigued by these grown-ups who were gleefully making such a chalky mess, were silently invited to leave their own chalk marks – either by drawing an outline around the adults, or lying across the floor for the performers to draw around them.
As the performance began, Devaney announced that they had been asked to make a production for children and had decided to ask the children themselves what they would – and would not – like to see. Dinosaurs, Harry Potter carrying two baby pandas, a swimming pool with sharks, a live rock band and the Queen and Prince Harry on horseback, were apparently just some of the things they wanted to see included. They did not want any puppets, Shakespeare, anything educational – or art! After a comic run-through of what such a show might look like, they admitted that they hadn’t enough money to make that and so they made this…
‘This’ was Devaney and Lebon sharing important moments from their personal histories using movement, voice and music. Their first kiss, their first experience of death, feelings of love, sadness and moments of sheer delight, all came tumbling out. In the midst of this, the recorded voices of children could be heard, musing over some of these issues for themselves. The subject of identity was the thread that ran through it all: are we determined by age, country of origin, gender, the things we do or the things we have experienced? It was interesting that many of the children’s voices defined themselves by what they are not, and the final voice ended mid-sentence: ‘I’m not a plug, I’m not a spider and most of all I am not…’
The whole piece was moving and refreshing in equal measure, but its reach extends beyond mere entertainment. Having recently experienced a death that is still raw, Devaney’s account of the death of her father when she was aged eight leaving, ‘a sadness that is now part of me’ struck a chord with my nine year old. Using this as an opening to talk for the first time about her feelings of loss, we were able to share happy memories and resolve some difficult issues that she had, unknown to me, been wrestling with. For this reason alone, Chalk About is a powerful and important piece of work. The opportunity it brings to connect and share what we all have in common, should be encountered, enjoyed and explored - whatever your age.
Run now ended