Geoff Cobham on Creating Art for Children

April 21st, 2022

We love Patch founder Morna Jones’ philosophy of children’s theatre and keep it at the heart of each Patch performance we create to this day: explore the world from a child’s point of view, acknowledge the relevance of their thinking and promote imagination, wonder and discovery. Her vision that children deserve meticulously crafted, challenging, high-quality theatre experiences still guides Patch today.

We help children to make sense of their world through art, to paraphrase Picasso: all children are born artists, and it is our challenge to help them remain so. We do this by putting children at the centre of our work.

Through the work we make and our engagement with our audiences we aim to:
• Provide rich theatrical experiences that put children and their curiosity first.
• Engage our audiences in the magic of theatre where analog meets the digital.
• Ensure young people grow up with arts as integral to their lives.
• Celebrate the value of the arts in society. It is easier to build strong children than repair broken adults.
• Provide opportunities for children to be captivated and inspired through their arts experience with us.
• Enrich society and culture by broadening our audiences’ arts experience and participation.
• Support the development and maintenance of a thriving and adventurous arts’ sector.

ZOOOM, Matt Byrne

One of the big questions we ask ourselves when we are making is: ‘What are the questions of the show? (not the answers).’

We do not seek to know what the show is about, but rather value what it is asking.

Here is a list of things that we often hang on the walls of the rehearsal room:
• Surprising and unique, rather than clever.
• The worst thing we can do is have our audiences all leave telling the same story.
• We aren’t telling them what it’s about – the goal is that they tell us what it’s about.
• The performers are not “ahead” of the audience. It should feel like we are discovering everything together.
• Apply ‘child logic’.
• Seek simplicity.
• Non-verbal but still human and real.
• Our audience are extremely diverse and many of them cannot read or write yet.
• No pretending.
• Clowning is often an easy choice and can be a distraction, but we should not avoid being funny!
• Children can smell when adults want something from them and will try and comply.
• We’re making abstract art for children; abstract art that an audience has agency in.

Our current work is generally non-verbal so can be enjoyed by a diverse audience. Our work is not narrative focused – it has an emotional narrative but not a linear story narrative. We encourage the children to make their own story up about the experience. In the past three years this new style of work has received positive feedback from teachers, parents and children – instilling my confidence in this approach. Our unique style appeals to our audiences, promoting imagination, wonder and discovery.

– Geoff Cobham

This article is an excerpt from our 2021 Annual Report. Read the full report here.