Polyglot Theatre to move to new home at Abbotsford Convent

Polyglot Tangle - photo by Sean YoungCommemorating a momentous 40 years in 2018, Polyglot Theatre, the leader in contemporary children’s theatre and participatory art works, has announced it will move to a new home at Melbourne’s Abbotsford Convent in May.

To celebrate, Polyglot Theatre, together with Abbotsford Convent, presents four special performances of its spectacular, world-renowned installation Tangle on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 April in the courtyard of the beautifully-restored Sacred Heart building at the Convent.

Tangle is a giant weaving event in which children and their families use coloured elastic to create a vibrant, live interactive sculpture, an enchanting landscape in which to play, explore and bounce about. Featuring live music, Tangle allows children to take the lead, building and contributing to a public artwork that was hailed as “a masterpiece in art making for young people” at Sydney Festival – having already wowed audiences from the US, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and England.

The birthday shows cap a massive 40 years of touring and creative activity for the critically acclaimed company. In that time, Polyglot Theatre has grown from a two-member puppet troupe to house twelve permanent staff whose work is galvanised by frequent international and intercultural collaborations.

Polyglot Theatre has transitioned from performing in school halls to internationally touring large-scale Play Space works, running numerous community projects, and advocating for the role of the arts in children’s development. Renowned for its dedication in exploring the breathtaking possibilities of contemporary children’s theatre, Polyglot Theatre is today highly sought-after across the globe for its distinctive blend of interactive and participatory arts experiences for children and families that boldly re-position children’s theatre at the forefront of contemporary art.

In 2017 alone, Polyglot Theatre staged a staggering 263 performances and held 172 workshops, reaching audiences of 44,940 people. In the preceding five years, Polyglot created 11 new works, gave 1226 performances, delivered 16 community engagement projects, undertook 6 international collaborations, delivered 767 workshops for 15,884 children, engaged over 1000 artists, sharing their vision with a global audience of over 351,000 people, in a touring schedule spanning far beyond that of any other Australian children’s theatre company.

Highlights of this year include Polyglot’s fourth visit to Japan earlier this month, where the touring team conducted workshops at the new Asian International Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences in Tokyo, as well as in five schools in Minami Sanriku – a small town devastated by the 2011 tsunami. On the seventh anniversary of the tragedy, Polyglot delivered its work Paper Planet in collaboration with Acchi Cocchi, a music organisation with deep connections in the Tohoku region.

In April, the company embarks on an Indonesian tour of Cerita Anak (Child’s Story), an immersive adventure on the high seas for children aged 2-7 and their adults that combines puppetry, song and shadow imagery in a collaboration with Indonesia’s Papermoon Puppet Theatre. Polyglot will also be touring in China and the USA later in 2018, with details to be announced soon.

This series of international workshops and performances complements Polyglot Theatre’s epic Australian schedule for 2018, which kicked off with a return to the Perth Festival with a sold out season of Cerita Anak (Child’s Story). Other Australian projects include:

– the second year of 5678 Film Club – a 3-year project conducted in weekly after-school sessions with students in Collingwood, where kids work with Polyglot artists to become acquainted with film-making skills and techniques, empowering them to tell their own stories in their own voices;

– the second year of First On The Ladder a 3-year art-meets-sport collaboration between Polyglot and Beyond Empathy, in partnership with two Indigenous sports clubs (Rumbalara Football and Netball Club in Shepparton, Victoria, and the Moree Boomerangs in NSW).The project features a range of creative experiences including zine-making, street art, radio broadcasting and play workshops.

– the creative development of Hear Me Roar a new collaboration with Elbow Room exploring gender stereotypes and kids at ArtPlay, as part of its New Ideas Lab, in April and June; and

Voice Lab a creative installation module for collecting the thoughts and opinions of children, progressed this year through a partnership with Anglicare and Gandel Philanthropy. Children are invited one at a time into a beautifully designed, serene igloo where they are entirely alone. In this space they have a conversation with Voice Lab – a computer-generated voice driven by a concealed live performer that asks questions, encourages opinion and regards the child as the expert.

“Polyglot Theatre is in a constant process of re-inventing itself,” said Polyglot Theatre Artistic Director Sue Giles. “We seek to challenge and stretch people’s perceptions of theatre and the value the arts has for young people. Across the globe, as families are increasingly time-poor and able to easily access passive forms of screen-dominated entertainment, children’s free creative play is being pushed outside of daily life.

“Responding to visible trends, Polyglot Theatre brings play to an audience hungry for opportunity, using a theatrical form that frames this play with strong aesthetic choices and concepts. In our works, through encounters with simple materials, children can be brave, explorative, get physically involved and realise their powers. We are determined to engage the public in a diversity of ways – going to where the people are and creating art in unexpected places.”

Since it was founded by Naomi Tippett in 1978, Polyglot Theatre has been creating unique and astonishing works of children’s theatre that challenge, thrill and delight. Under the direction of Sue Giles since 2000, Polyglot Theatre’s award-winning works have been seen in 18 countries across 5 continents. Presented at the world’s leading venues and festivals, Polyglot has consistently met with professional acclaim and recognition around the world, making it truly one of Australia’s most exciting and celebrated arts companies.

To support Polyglot’s relocation and its next 40 years of innovative work for children, the company is undertaking a 40th Birthday fundraising appeal. Every dollar raised up to $50,000 before 15 May will be doubled thanks to Creative Partnerships Australia’s Plus1 matched funding. For more information, visit: www.polyglot.org.au for details.

Image: Tangle – photo by Sean Young