Tales from Mouths of 3-Year-Olds Inspire Theatr Iolo; Children's Exact Phrases Form Basis of Scripts

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Byline: Katie Norman

ATHEATRE group has developed a new way of including children as young as three in the play-writing process.

Cardiff-based company Theatr Iolo has devised and performed two successful children's plays using stories made up by nursery and Year 1 pupils in special workshops.

The exact phrases uttered by youngsters aged three to five have formed the basis for the scripts of the company's productions Under the Carpet and Finding Leaves for Soup.

Teachers said involvement in the workshops and watching the resulting plays had helped to develop children's confidence and imagination, as well as introducing the early years pupils to live performances.

The process has also enabled Theatr Iolo to create plays that are bound to appeal to nursery-age youngsters because they utilise the language and ideas of their peers.

Director Sarah Argent said the initiative had been inspired by the writings of American educator Vivian Gussin Paley, who focuses on the importance of encouraging young children to make up their own stories.

Ms Argent said: "We didn't think it would lead to a production at first, it was initially just a story-making project.

"I got a suitcase full of objects I thought were interesting and I took it into nurseries, where each child told me a story based on one or two of the objects.

"Then we had a eureka moment and thought, 'What if our next production exclusively uses the words from the children's stories?' And that's what we developed into Under the Carpet about two years ago." Based on the words of children from nurseries in Barry Island and Grangetown and Splott in Cardiff, Under the Carpet has now been performed in cities including Edinburgh, London and the Czech capital Prague. It will next travel to Seoul in South Korea.

Theatr Iolo's latest play to be inspired by the stories of early years children is Finding Leaves for Soup, which began as a project called Words in the Woods, organised by the Vale of Glamorgan Forest Education Initiative. It is touring Welsh nurseries until July 10.

To generate story ideas for the production, youngsters aged three to five from four Vale of Glamorgan schools and nurseries were taken to Hensol Forest, near Cowbridge, for a workshop. …