On Sunday evening at Shopfront in Cartlon, I sit in the foyer. And all I can hear is a hub-bub inside the theatre.
Among the parents and the kids checking out the artworks on display, Howard Matthew, Shopfront’s co-artistic director smiles at me.
‘Sounds fun,’ I say.
‘Fun?’ he says, ‘It’s more like Lord of the Flies!’
‘Yes, well… it sounds fun. Lord of the Flies is fun, except if you are Piggy.’ I reply.

And here’s the blurb:

“What happens in the imaginary places we escape to? What do we take with us as we grow up? What’s left behind?

Over 16 weeks 25 young people have worked with a team of professional artists to create, devise and perform their own work. Island incorporates puppeteering, music, video, and model-making with live performance.

Join us for a fantastic season of performances for all ages. Island has been created through Shopfront’s workshop program. This annual program offers 4 terms of workshops that give young people aged 8-25 the opportunity to create new work through a range of art forms including video, sound, performance and puppetry. Junior Ensemble runs during terms 3 and 4 and participants become eligible to take part in this program by completing a workshop in either term 1 or term 2.”

When we are allowed into the theatre there is a mix of children and young people on an island tucked up in the corner- some wild and some in sailors uniforms – it’s like Peter Pan’s lost boys or Pippi Longstocking meets Gilligan’s island. A few children crouch behind a mini 3-D map of an island floating about downstage.

This is a show that has been directed (and facilitated) by Luke Kerridge and Howard Matthew – an ensemble of Shopfronters who have devised and developed a performance (and made all design elements) around the idea of an island being a place of solace and solitude and re-charging. A place of rejuvenation and introspection.

And the result is some truly beautiful ensemble work assisted by professional artists – puppeteers, lighting designer, sound designers, filmmakers – to create a philosophical and sensitive exploration into the journey of being comfortable with oneself and the adventures ahead. Little hand-held torches concealed inside paper boats – flicker and flip in the darkness. A 3 meter high monster claws and grabs. A smart-alec light-studded seagull offers advice. Someone prepares to leave the island in search of adventure, despite being nervous or scared.

As I leave the theatre that evening I am struck, yet again, how deeply philosophical and reassuring children can be. How their talents and ideas are not to be underestimated – and how the force of creativity and imagination must not be ever taken for granted.

And I am glad and grateful to the Junior Ensemble to allow me to be grounded again, ready to face adventure again in my own little boat…