Imagination is the core ingredient of childhood. From tots to juveniles, children are keen to immerse themselves into worlds of fantasy and intrigue; to forge swords out of kitchen foil, build spaceships out of cardboard, and dress up like princesses and heroes. In this way, children are inherently theatrical. Play is more than a game – it is mental stimulation, a chance for children to actively participate in a process of creation and engage with their environment.
Television denies children this. Watching TV does not come naturally. It is a learned habit. Whether shown how to or not, a child may one day pick up a twig and automatically use it as a telescope. Conversely, when it comes to television, a child must be taught what it is and how to work it. While sitting in front of the television, children may respond to what they view, but they do not partake in its fabrication. They are predominantly silent and still.
- 1. Theatre reminds children of their innate tendency towards make believe. It is elaborately interactive, furthering cognitive development. Many productions aimed towards youngsters address the audience directly and encourage children to cheer, shout, and answer questions. Furthermore, in a theatre there is a genuine perception of space, sound, shape, and colour – not a flat screen.
- 2. TV is synthetic. Not only is it an electrical device, but ads are frenzied and loud, and shots in television programmes rarely last more than a few seconds. Hyperactivity on the screen can leave children on edge. The theatre, on the other hand, is entirely organic. When a child sees a prop onstage, it is tangible and perceived in real time.
- 3. There are social benefits to the theatre that children are not privy to sitting in front of the television. In an auditorium, no matter how big or small, a child is constantly surrounded by people he or she must interact with. It is a place where strangers sit side by side and conversation flows everywhere.
- 4. When attending a show, movement is necessary. The procedure of getting ready, travelling to and from the theatre, and intermission requires children to leave the house and be physically active. As well, seeing the performers on stage inspires young ones to enact their own epic adventures outside.
- 5. Lastly, the theatre is memorable. Hours spent in front of the TV can pass by in a blink. There is no fulfilment in the time spent watching television. In contrast, the theatre evokes a sense of occasion where beloved characters and family moments are remembered for years to come.
Theatre is entertaining, stimulating, sociable and a feast for the mind and soul.
Written in association with the Leicester Square Box Office, currently offering the cheapest Wicked tickets around.