‘Theatre is important for young audiences’

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Northern Ireland’s internationally renowned theatre company for children - Cahoots NI - turns 18 this year and the popularity of its shows continues to grow.

Artistic Director Paul Bosco McEaney began the company after being approached by Young at Art to write a play for young people. He admits that he didn’t set out to create a production company for children’s theatre but it has now become his life’s passion.

“It was a complete and utter accident,” admits Paul. “I was a jobbing actor treading the boards and was asked by the then director of Young at Art to write a piece for them. I wrote Buster and founded Cahoots out of a necessity to secure funding. After I founded the company I realised it was something I had a passion for.”

Paul’s passion for children’s theatre has grown over the years and he is now even more committed to providing quality theatre for young people all over the world.

“Children deserve to have the same standard of work that adults get when they go to the theatre,” he continued. “Theatre for young audiences is important.”

Over the years Cahoots has produced many memorable shows but for Paul one that really sticks in his mind is Egg because the idea behind it came from his son.

“A turning point for the company came about seven or eight years ago when we did a piece called Egg, a non-verbal piece inspired by my son,” he revealed.

“He was passionate about a little book about an egg cracking that really resonated with me, so I wrote a piece which really launched us onto the international touring circuit.”

The company is still touring its shows across the world, with Paul staging a production in Texas next week and plans to tour one of their previous shows in China at the end of the year.

Paul has also recently returned from the prestigious International Performing Arts for Youth Conference (IPAY) in Philadelphia, where, as one of just 14 performances, Cahoots NI showed the world just what Northern Irish Children’s theatre has to offer.

“The IPAY Showcase is a world class platform, which selects a small number of productions to perform to an audience of industry professionals,” explained Paul.

“We have been fortunate enough to be selected for this on a third occasion, this time for Penguins.

“Following the success of our time at IPAY, a full USA tour is on the horizon for 2020. I am thrilled that this show, which was enjoyed by so many families within the UK and Ireland, can now be shared with young audiences across America.

“There are countries that look towards Northern Ireland as being the front runners in producing work for children. We have got a sector here producing work for young audiences that is leading the way in treating children with respect.”

Cahoots NI’s latest production, Milo’s Hat Trick, has been on a tour of Ireland and has been wowing young audiences across the country.

Young audiences from aged three and upwards have enjoyed magic, music, puppetry, and mischief in this delightful adventure, based on the book by Jon Agee.

Cahoots NI put together an incredible creative team for the production, with music from Peter J. McCauley, lyrics from Hugh W. Brown, set and costume design by Sabine Dargent and a larger than life bear puppet from Jimmy Grimes, the former Puppet Director of Warhorse in the West End. The cast of three includes Jude Quinn, Emer McDaid, and Crystal Zilwood.

Milo’s Hat Trick will end its local tour at the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn on March 30 and Paul is delighted with the response so far.

“It has been going down really well,” he said. “I saw it in a packed house in Limavady and the reaction was great.

“It is important for us that we don’t just produce work in Belfast but that we take it to regional venues as well so that as many people as possible can see it.”

With a tour of Ireland almost finished and three international tours already done since January, there is certainly no rest for Paul and Cahoots NI as he is already planning his next show.

“I am currently in development with a new show that I have been working on for quite a while with a Welsh writer - Secrets of Space,” he revealed. “It will be opening at the Mac in Belfast in September or October.

“I am also working on a show in the States called Vanishing Elephant and we will actually be vanishing a full size elephant puppet on stage. I am really excited about that.

“There is never a dull moment and that is what I love about children’s theatre.”

Cahoots NI will be staging Milo’s Hat Trick at the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn on March 30 at 11.30am and 2.30pm. Tickets are available from the Box Office on 028 9250 9254 and online at www.islandartscentre.com.