ZOOM DIARIES - An interview with Geoff Cobham

Introducing Zoom: An Interview with Artistic Director Geoff Cobham

To connect to the child within, Geoff Cobham turned to his favourite childhood book, Harold and the Purple Crayon, for inspiration for Zoom, Zoom is inspired by Harold and the Purple Crayon. It’s a children’s book written in the 1950’s and it’s never gone out of print. It’s about a little boy who is alone in the world and all he has is a purple crayon. And with that crayon he creates his world. That book was very inspirational to me as a child, and is one of the reasons I’m in theatre and have the confidence to do what I do.”

“What is unique about the book is that there are no parents, there are no adults and some kids read the book and say ‘well where’s his mum?’, why is he allowed outside at night on his own? So the rules of our adult world just don’t apply.

You’re plunged, 100% into the mind of Harold,” says Geoff, “And it’s the simplicity of the idea. Harold is literally in a void and he makes everything, and it’s quite bizarre the way he does things. He makes things backwards and scale is, well, optional. The whole world is from a child’s point of view, so he can draw a tiny little miniature town and then step up into it as if he’s a giant. Harold draws his worlds and makes sense of it, it gives him a sense of agency and control and lets him experience things and answer questions, big questions, on his own terms. The book really captures exactly what it’s like, I think, to explore as a child.”

This idea of the limitlessness of a child’s imagination is central to Geoff’s vision not only for Zoom, but for the company more broadly, “One of the things we’re trying to do at Patch is not make shows we know the answers to. Most children’s theatre is very tidy. It has clear endings. We’re making work about things we don’t know the answers to. We want to work together with them to discover something new or, at least, open their mind to a range of questions they wouldn’t have encountered otherwise.

Zoom sees Cobham and a range of artists from around Adelaide get into the minds of children through a similar mode of exploration and discovery, “We asked ourselves, what is magic to us? And it was light. So we asked ourselves some questions as if we were wielding the light like Harold with his Crayon. We asked ourselves, ‘where does light go to sleep?’, ‘who is the dark and what does he want?’ and ‘if I had the only light in the world, what would I do with it?’”

“One of my fascinations with light is that every bit of light that’s emitted goes to the end of the universe. If I turn a light on in my house, that light goes all the way out the window to the end of the universe. Scientists don’t know what light is made of or how it operates. It’s a particle and a wave, which doesn’t make any sense in physics. It’s still this magical thing even to them, who spend their entire life understanding the universe.”

In Zoom, the character of Harold takes the form of a tiny ember of light that guides an unnamed narrator through a series of lessons that take her into thrilling new worlds, “the ember plays with the girl, teaches her about things and then he turns himself into a line, and then into pictures. He draws the world for her, and together they share all these new adventures. They go through portals that allow them to change time and dimension… so they have all these magical doorways that they can walk through and then find themselves in another exciting place until entire worlds open up before them.”

“The show is about big questions, it’s not shying away from ideas like ‘what is the universe?’, ‘how big is it?’, ‘where do we come from?’” says Geoff’

“Children aren’t afraid of big questions. They’re not afraid of letting their mind wander, or letting their imagination do the talking. Their brains are very open to new ideas. It’s a beautiful way of looking at the world, and a really wonderful way of being. With Zoom we want to connect with that, and, more than anything, we want to nurture that.”


ZOOM season is from 23 July - 6 September 2019.

Tickets on sale now.


Krystle Aunger