Is there anything more wondrous than to witness a child experience a moment of sheer delight and inspiration?
When they go from simply watching something to suddenly wiggling forward so quickly that they teeter at the edge of their seat, their small backs straightening as they strain to take in as much as possible. Eyes wide, smile even wider, you watch as their senses are heightened and their beautiful minds become captivated by a vision that not only excites them but allows their wild imaginations to run free?
The truth is, these moments when children are truly engaged are not only the ones in which they learn and retain the most, but also when we as parents get to experience their joy along with them. Sharing those things that make children smile – singing, dancing, playing, painting, creating and imagining – is a gift to both parent and child and it is one that the QPAC Out of the Box Festival continues to provide in bucket loads to our Brisbane families.
What can you expect at the Festival and who can go?
The Queensland Performing Arts Centre first presented its Out of the Box Festival in Brisbane in 1992 and since then the biannual event has continued to grow, both in the diversity and range of its program as well as the number of families and children it attracts. Over the years, the festival has engaged more than one million participants and 3721 artists. It has presented 1534 performances, 2335 workshops and 9461 activities, all designed for children aged 8 years and under and with the distinct aim to provide an opportunity for Queensland children to engage with the arts.
Having said that, I have been an avid fan of the festival and all that it provides our children for many, many years now and always look forward to the program release eagerly. Whilst the Festival makes sure that all of its shows are suitable for younger children, this is not to say that teenagers and adults will not enjoy what is on offer too. Quite the contrary. All of the shows and activities I was lucky to see this year (The Arrival, Airplay and Little Yawar) would easily entertain people from 5 all the way up to 105 years old!
Not only full of amazing in-theatre experiences with performances catering for a range of ages, the festival also hosts a variety of activities, workshops and events that are aimed at celebrating and supporting learning, play, and discovery for children. This festival and associated community engagement activities also help to inspire our community to talk about broader issues in the world today with our kids.
For instance, there are programs at this year’s Festival like The Arrival, Home, Here I Am and Little Yawar, that address some big themes – the idea of home, refugees, history and how we see ourselves. These shows entertain but are also a fantastic way to open a conversation about larger world issues with our children as they are presented to them in a way that they can understand.
This year the Festival has also enabled more children to enjoy the Out of the Box experience through QPAC’s Care for a Class program, which in 2018 means 600 children from schools in areas experiencing disadvantage will be able to attend the Festival.
The Out of the Box Experience
This year the OOTB Festival have done ticketing a little differently. Rather than buying tickets and booking into particular events individually, this year visitors are required to buy a ‘day pass’ for the event instead. The idea is that by purchasing a day pass (which equates to $35 a ticket and allows you to choose one in-theatre experience as well as activities) visitors can reserve a place at their chosen events and also create a personalised itinerary of their time at the festival too. By inputting the ages of your children the site will also indicate which shows are most appropriate and make sure there are no overlaps in your bookings.
This year I chose to attend the Out of the Box Festival with my two daughters, aged 6 and 8 (almost 9). Hitting the pointy end of the age scale for the festival didn’t change the fact that my eldest was just as excited as her younger sister to attend and the three shows we saw kept her just as riveted, if not more so, as her sister.
Part of the Out of the Box experience is the atmosphere and activity that surrounds the festival’s hub of QPAC. As we made out way into the venue and around it we were immersed in a hive of excitement and fun. The walls were adorned with children’s artwork, the green square beside the cafes was alive with hundreds of small bodies grooving beneath a stream of bubbles as children took part in the Dance….Like No One is Watching Activity and literally, swarms of animated school children moved excitedly around us. My girls loved selecting a coloured dot that represented their age and placing it on a giant world map near the stage door too. As we were amongst some of the first to see the festival there were only a few others on there but by the end of the day when we went back it was filling up quickly.
The experiences we chose were all very different too, with each bringing something different to my family.
Airplay was fun, playful and visually mesmerising. A circus-style adventure that will be perfect for the youngest of guests right up to the eldest, this show captivated its audience with larger-than-life balloons, giant reams of silk that floated out over the crowd and an almost-magical play with umbrellas, confetti and sprinkles. This show was very interactive too, what with audience members being called on stage to take part during the performance and at one point one of the main characters clambering over the audience as he chased a wayward balloon into the delighted crowd. There was a flurry of excited squeals, laughter and clapping all the way through this performance and the overall exhilaration lingered amongst the crowd long after the show finished and they exited their seats.
The Arrival, on the other hand, was a much more complex, highly emotive performance that involved very clever staging and a more intense storyline. Based on the book by Shaun Tan, this almost wordless show told the more personal tale of immigration and refugees, but with elements of fantasy, puppetry and mime added in. Although I needed to explain a lot of what was being depicted on stage to my children they remained fixated on what was happening from the start until the end, with it definitely opening a conversation between us on what moving to a whole new country must be like. I think both my girls gained a greater understanding and empathy for just how foreign and lonely it must be and that for most refugees moving away from family to a new country is a necessity, not a choice. This performance was both powerful and extremely clever and was by far my favourite. It is also one that suits a slightly older audience.
The final show we watched was Little Yawar, a very relaxed and interactive performance by children from various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations across Queensland who gathered to share and celebrate their culture. Another great example of introducing history and culture to our children through the arts, this was an experience that was particularly loved by my younger daughter – especially when they made fire in front of the audience! Learning about the tribes, their history and their beliefs was also both educational and fascinating for my two girls.
So three very different shows with three very different experiences and conversations to take away from them. All of which my children loved and were delighted and inspired by. And that, people, is why I love the Out of the Box Festival so much.
2018 Dates and Booking Details
The 2018 Out of the Box Festival opened on June 26thand will run until Sunday 1 July (day passes are still available for this weekend). If you are not able to get to the festival in that time then fear not. Some of the shows, like the incredibly impressive The Arrival, will enjoy an extended season at QPAC – and at worse there will be another amazing festival here in 2020.
For the full 2018 Out of the Box program and Day Pass bookings go to www.outoftheboxfestival.com.au.