‘Riverside Theatres’ in Parramatta
I’ve taken the kids to the Spot On Children’s Festival at Parramatta Riverside Theatre in Sydney for the last two years running.
My absolute favourite act was in 2015, seeing the incredible jazz singer, Ali McGregor and her Jazzamatazz show. She had all the kids and adults dancing on the stage and we walked out of the theatre on the biggest high.
Then last year, The Listies’ show 6D was a huge hit with my brood (and everyone else), which is why they’re coming back this year with their brand new show Ickypedia.
This year, it’s hard to pinpoint a highlight – there is so much great stuff. The program coordinator, Amy Mathews, and her team, pick the cream of the crop in live kids entertainment.
The various performances on the bill are always smart, creative, innovative and good fun.
The best part? All the activities are free!
Free activities in the courtyard include:
Face painting, balloon twisting, play gym, giant Jenga, craft and the reading tent.I caught up with Amy Matthews, coordinator of this year’s fantastic program.
1. What is so special about the Spot On Children's Festival? Just the fact that we allow Riverside, an entire venue, to be completely taken over with Children’s shows and events, from the theatres to the foyer to the courtyard. I can only think of two annual festivals in Sydney where that happens and one of them is SPOT ON. The staff all get involved too, our staff even dress up for the occasion! It’s a really great atmosphere and a chance for all of us, whether little or grown, to have fun and release the inner child!
2. What are your fave picks of the festival? That’s a tricky one- I obviously love everything cause I programmed it! Obviously, The Listies always make a big impression every time they come to Riverside and I am really looking forward to their brand new show ‘Ickypedia’. To anyone who hasn’t seen them before- it’s a must see! You’ll never think of poo jokes the same way again! Also, ‘Curiosity’ will be amazing- using circus tricks, clowning and acrobatics to tell a wonderful story about a young girl who dives into the bottom of her toybox and is transported to a new world. Who didn’t dream of that when they were a kid right? Also, ‘Sunny Ray and the Magnificent Moon’ was one I saw at the Sydney Festival a few years ago and I had such a great time, I just had to have it at my festival! It’s got some GREAT music to sing and bop along to and the story of the Sun wanting to stay up all night with the Moon due to serious FOMO is relatable to most kids! Myself included!
3. What is a 'relaxed' performance and who are they targeted at? A relaxed performance is really targeted at ANYONE who finds that the ‘rules’ of attending live theatre are a little too much for them. A relaxed performance takes away those rules and makes the environment a little more- well- relaxed! Audience members can come and go if they need a break, the lights stay on a little so it’s not completely dark, anyone who needs to ‘stim’ (rocking, flapping arms, making noises etc) is free to do so without judgement or ‘shussing’ (relaxed performances are no SHUSH zones!) and any really loud noises other overwhelming theatrical effects are toned down, removed or pre-warned. They’re particularly suitable for people on the Autism Spectrum, but really anyone can have anxiety about having to sit still and be quiet in the dark to watch theatre, so anyone is welcome!
4. Why do you think live performance is so critical to a child's development? It’s SO beneficial! Firstly, they’re having a LIVE experience with entertainment that is completely different to being given entertainment through a screen. The brain engages in a completely different way when processing a live performance, with all the lighting, staging, sounds, sights etc than it would if looking at a flat two dimensional screen. This additional processing works parts of the brain that is associated with imagination and creativity, as well as empathy. The more LIVE theatre a child experiences, the more these parts of the brain are being exercised, leading to a greater ability for the child to be able to play imaginatively and to show better social outcomes, including empathy and tolerance. Secondly, I believe there is a great benefit to be had from the shared experience of being an audience. Being in a room full of people all experiencing the same thing as you can be so magical! It can make a child feel more a sense of belonging to that group of people, which I feel helps them with social interactions and the ability to be part of a community.
The Spot On Children’s Festival runs from Sept 26 – 30 at Parramatta Riverside Theatre in Sydney.