Friday, August 27, 2010

BFGs & Warhorses

I seem to be stuck in a Roald Dahl thread right now, but two of the simple little highlights in London, for me & my 'too fast growing' family, were 2 moments when I realised my children are still capable of make believe & wonder.

We were travelling to London on the excellent Oxford Tube service which has a loo, wireless connection AND up to THREE children go free with an adult. Bargain (admittedly about the only bargain I discovered during my stay in Rip-Off Britain) My 6 y-o this summer has (thankfully) developed a taste for listening avidly to story tapes on a Walkman (remember those?), wearing enormous ear muff headphones (cos the dinky little ear plug ones fall out all the time) It has made travel a lot more palateable for her, and me.

She was listening to 'The BFG', a family favourite, & in my opinion, Dahl's best by a long way. Rather magically, she had just got to the part where they are travelling to London to deliver the dream to the Queen; they had crossed Hyde Park, and so had we, and as Sophie & the BFG leapt over Buckingham Palace wall & my daughter asked how tall the wall was, we went past it & I pointed out the high palace walls & Buckingham Palace beyond. Art meets life.

It was a great moment. "Wow! That's really the palace in there! The walls are so high, it's amazing the BFG jumped them in a 'snitchy little jump'." she said.

Of course, not wishing to miss an opportunity to impress my daughter, I said.

"I've been in Buckingham Palace."

I should never have mentioned it.

6 y-old's eyes lit up & she said,

"Wow, you've seen the Queen's bedroom, like Sophie!"

"Errrr, no actually, not the Queen's bedr..........."

"Oh so the ballroom then where they have breakfast?"

"Ahmmmmm, well, no, I saw some ante rooms on my way to the gardens, as it was a Garden Party...... And I did see Prince Charles & Lady Diana. And they spoke to us." (well, & everyone else gathered round). I trailed off.

The intricacies of extraneous Royal family members (whether or not direct heirs to the throne) was clearly distinctly underwhelming, only slightly less so than the mention of 'ante rooms', I mean whoever heard of them in fairy tales? Not a dicky bird.

She resolutely adjusted her ear muffs, stuck her thumb in her mouth & concentrated on listening to Geoffrey Palmer's dulcet tones as the Queen of England, nevertheless with her eyes glued to the bus window gazing out at the palace walls.

The second incident was with my son, & in a way it was the other way round. Life meets art. For the 1st time ever we had taken advantage of Kids' Theatre week when a child goes free with every adult ticket. My 10 y-o is an avid Michael Morpurgo fan, & loved Warhorse, so that was the obvious choice. He was utterly rapt. Apart from pantomime he has never been to the theatre to see a play, though in Sri Lanka he was in 2 school productions. He got totally absorbed in it, but at the same time, didn't understand any of the 'theatrical conventions' . He seemed quite at ease with people breaking into song, probably because of panto, but when they did a freeze frame whilst 1 or 2 actors carried on talking, he whispered,

"Why is everyone standing so still & not speaking?"

And the horse puppets (which were truly amazing, so life like & credible) had 1 person holding the head & 2 inside (I know, sounds like a panto horse, but it really didn't have that effect) The foal though had 3 people all working him, dressed as stable hands, & my son said,

"Why are three people surrounding the horse all the time? He didn't seem to get that they were working the puppet.

Maybe the 'suspension of disbelief' has to be relearned, once it has been unlearned as a child becomes an adult. As adults you just ignored the 'puppet handlers', because you understood they had to be there. The freeze frames, the singing, the birds 'flying' on long poles, the frieze across the back of the stage depicting war scenes etc. My son was obviously so used to films, it was puzzling to him, because so 'unrealistic', despite being a realistic story set in the 1st World War.

Fortunately, however, being a child & therefore flexible, adaptable & trusting, he accepted my waffle about dramatic techniques & got stuck in, even providing a very credible comparitive critique at the end between book & play for the benefit of his Godfather who hadn't read the story.

Next year I think we'll do The Lion King. That should push the boundaries even further, it probably covers about every genre possible.

And on the way home, on the bus, my 6 y-o daughter said,

"Mummy who is Father Christmas, really, cos I know he's not real."

And my 10 y-o son said "Shh, don't say mum, because I still believe in him & don't want to know."

Willing suspension of disbelief...


Expat mum said...


Anonymous said...

Warhorse is an amazing play, tugs at the heartstrings though!

Iota said...

One thing that we talked about doing this summer, and then didn't, was to go to the production of The Railway Children at Waterloo station. I really regret not doing that.

We did go to the Roald Dahl museum, though. It's very near my mum's. I originally thought it was in his old house, but it's not. Just in the same village. There's not a huge amount to see - it's tricky to make a museum about writing. But it was a good morning. I enjoyed hearing him and other writers (eg Michael Morpurgo, JK Rowling) talk about their writing - though only one set of headphones was working so only one person could listen at a time.

Mwa said...

He probably just thinks the presents will dry up once he admits the truth.