Exploring Otherness Through Puppetry
I’ve wanted to make a performance of the Frog Prince for some years now but it didn’t “click” until I found the reason why to make it.
Why the Frog Prince?
It began to fall into place when I read an online article Norfolk School Racism Warning that says: “Campaigners have called for better training to help teachers deal with racist behaviour in Norfolk’s schools, after it emerged that five- and six-year-olds were responsible for more incidents than any other age group”.
I browsed the online debate about racism amongst young children and found it was a pretty complicated subject – see the article in the Times Education Supplement “Can a 4 year old be racist?” – which raises questions such as can a young child be racist when they often don’t know the meaning behind their words? and how do we educate children and young people to see that racism and cultural prejudices are damaging even when no offence is intended or taken?
I realised that The Frog Prince would be an ideal vehicle for helping young children think about issues of otherness, prejudice and discrimination. The story teaches not to take people at face value and to recognise the humanity that lies within us all.
Frogs being frogs, they have a different physicality (body shape, skin colour) and culture (they live in water and feed on insects) to the Princess and the Frog is therefore an excellent symbol for anything that might be considered as “other” – race, ethnicity, culture, physicality, beliefs, lifestyle.
In the Frog Prince, the Princess is not purposefully racist to the frog but she does inadvertently display prejudice (a frog can’t be a friend), superiority (he’s only a frog) and discrimination (a frog can’t eat at my table or sleep in my bed).
It is this unawareness that she is being careless and unkind that will give teachers and parents an ideal opening to initiate discussions about equality, respect and responsibility.
So this is the rationale for the project ….
… now we have to take the subject apart and explore it through performance …
action . materials . design . structure . musicality . gesture . movement . spatial relationships …