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Director Nathan Curry reveals all about Butterflies, a new show for ages 3-8 that is based on research into children’s anxiety. The show will whisk you away on a journey of what makes you anxious and what we can do to understand, accept or overcome these feelings.
We caught up with Nathan to find out more.
Tell us a little about Butterflies. What’s the show about?
Butterflies is all about setting out on a journey into the unknown where, with friendship and bravery, you can take on all that life throws at you. It’s a thought provoking story that discusses how we learn to accept the butterflies in our tummies as part of life. Through friendship, play and understanding what’s happening inside of us, we can live alongside our nerves and be happy.
What can audiences look forward to?
Adventure. Drama. A great set! The staging transforms in a magical way – at one point we are at sea, then dangling on a rope bridge, then lost in a forest, then climbing a mountain and more. It is inspired by magical, yet realistic play (making landscapes through imaginations), that we see children enjoy all the time.
What was the inspiration for the production?
At the very start of the creation of Butterflies we worked with a group of young teenagers, aged 12-14, who do not attend school due to anxiety. Although these ‘creative consultants’ weren’t from the target audience age range for Butterflies, they helped us understand how their anxiety started, what the shape and feel of it was and what their coping mechanisms were.
We spent our time with them discussing images, metaphors and poetry surrounding anxiety in a bid to help connect our creativity to their reality. They helped us find some key images in the show, some of the coping methods our characters use, and also the title for the production.
“It’s a thought provoking story that discusses how we learn to accept the butterflies in our tummies as part of life.”
Why do the issues in Butterflies particularly resonate with you?
Anxiety is everywhere in our society and we all feel it. One of the central concepts of the show is the characters have a ‘feeling’ in their tummy and not knowing how to describe it or how to make it go away. This ‘feeling’ is one we can all identify with and is how I used to describe my nerves to my parents when I was young.
At Tangled Feet we work with hundreds of young people each year and I am often struck with how much stress and anxiety they have to carry with them – both politically, globally and personally. Butterflies is an attempt to shine a light on some of those feelings of worry and normalise them a bit.
The production features some exciting physicality. How did this come about?
As a director, I always had a sense that there was as strong physical language in the world of anxiety. A lot of the way it’s experienced is a physical or bodily reaction – breathlessness, dizziness, foggy mind, sweating, wobbling, missing a step – it all suits a physical language. I also thought that a physical world would help explain and unlock the anxiety feelings for a younger audience.
“Butterflies is an attempt to shine a light on some of those feelings of worry and normalise them a bit.”
What would you like audiences to take with them after seeing the show?
A sense that they’d been on a big adventure and seen acts of bravery, creativity and examples of friendship. Some reference points for talking about anxiety with young people and how it’s a completely normal part of life.
Describe Butterflies in three words.
Beautiful, meaningful and exhilarating
What inspired your career? What advice would you give to young people hoping to follow in your footsteps?
I enjoyed the creative process at school – creating plays, creating an ensemble of performers and sharing stories with an audience. In terms of advice, I think you need to look at it as a marathon not a sprint – seeds you sow now could grow into wonderful collaborations or ideas. Collaborate, be kind and ask questions.
Butterflies is a co-production between award winning theatre ensemble Tangled Feet and Half Moon, the UK’s leading small-scale theatre company creating work for young people.