THEATRE FOR THE YOUNG
Brendan's plays for young people cater for a market often over-looked by mainstream theatre companies. Neither pitched at young children (aged 4-8 years), or covering the more mature themes explored in young adult theatre (16-18 years), Brendan's works are aimed at challenging and entertaining the discerning and aspirational tastes of those aged 10-15 years.
Children are not an amorphous group. What is funny to primary school children is not funny for the tween-agers, and definitely not the teenagers. If you go into this genre of art making, you either have to be intimately involved with and enjoy children, or have a passion for the style of art that is created for children—preferably both.
For the child audience you use a simpler story structure, but it has to demonstrate an understanding of the experiences and psychology of persons at this stage of development. A child’s concept of the world is different than yours. A child’s priorities are different than yours. When they laugh at a poo joke, it’s less likely to be out of transgressive humour and more to do with the effort they still have to put in to control bodily functions. You won’t find that angry edge.
Tweenagers will still enjoy playful, dynamic comedy, but they are already becoming aspirational. They want stories with empowered children or protagonists with whom they can identify. Plots can take a more complex turn. Teenagers tend to experience humour deficit disorder. They want to be taken seriously and be respected. Straight stand-up will appeal to them more than anything that might make them feel or seem foolish. They are trying to establish themselves in the world.
Family comedy is an exercise in socialisation. The comedy needs to be in reach of the children, with some of the trappings of childhood, but aimed smack dab at the adults. You have to get them on-side first. So mum and dad take their kids to a show. They laugh hard. Their primary school children will laugh because their parents are laughing, and will learn what their family finds funny. The tweenagers, who have already learned the family code of humour, will understand when to laugh on their own. The teenagers will look around to see if any other teenagers are laughing before allowing a grin to creep across their faces. I actually believe this sort of family and social bonding can be healthy, provided we give people something worth bonding over.