Your kids can learn from this little girl's battle with the trolls

A new play by this Irish company will show them the story of an empowered young girl who meets some scary trolls.

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WHEN YOU’RE AN adult, it can be easy to forget what it was to be full of childlike wonder.

Bills, family, work and deadlines can all sap that sense of fun and wide-eyed enthusiasm out of your life. But at Monkeyshine theatre company, it’s their job to stay in touch with their inner child, and that’s why their productions are loved by kids (and their parents too).

For their latest play, Little Light, Monkeyshine is bringing the tale of a feisty and strong-willed young girl to audiences across Ireland.

Little Light

Luca Truffarelli / YouTube

Jim Jobson, Monkeyshine’s joint artistic director, described Little Light as a “winter treat for everyone age five and over”.

The backbone of the play is inspired by Nordic mythology, but it also has elements of Irish folklore in it. It was inspired by the book Lucia and The Light, by Phyllis Root.

It follows the adventures of a little girl named Lucia during the darkest days of the year.

A crew of storytellers – who come from the far north – bring the tale to life on stage. The story is set in winter time, in a land covered in snow. It’s about a little girl’s quest to bring back the sun to save her family.

“It’s a real classic quest,” said Jobson. When we first meet them, Lucia and family are preparing for winter. “They are cosy in their little house: settling in, wood chopped, baking bread, jam made. All the things we do to prepare for winter. They are waiting for days to grow longer and spring to arrive.”

But then the sun never arrives.

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Suddenly, things stop going to plan.

“The mother and younger brother are sitting tight, the cow is producing less milk every day, the food stores are getting decayed by winter,” said Jobson.

With the “curiosity of a child’s mind”, Lucia realises that maybe someone has stolen the sun.

Empowering young people

The young heroine decides she has to do something about this.

Despite her mother’s pleas not to go, she sets off accompanied by her cat and a tinder box. “She has a strong will in her,” said Jobson, adding that the play is about the empowerment of Lucia.

She goes into the forest mountains, which are portrayed “through physical theatre, lighting and a bit of theatre magic” (and original music, too). She journeys up to the rocky realms where the trolls live, and has to battle them for the sun.

“There is a lot of nature in it. It’s really strong and we tried to capture that and we tried to capture that in playful storytelling,” said Jobson.

Though she battles with horrible trolls, the story shows that Lucia is quick-witted and smart.

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Monkeyshine make smart theatre for children, and they don’t try to talk down to the audience.

“I think there can be a place for a fables and preaching,” said Jobson. “There’s connotations with that. We definitely leave the child space to make their mind up – we don’t fill in the gaps for them, we don’t get too literal with them.”

The theatre was set up in 1999 by Kareen Pennefather and a group of friends from university. Initially a street theatre company based in the north, it moved to the Republic soon after Jobson joined in 2004.

They’re currently based in Co Kilkenny. Monkeyshine’s work is about, they say, “re-imagining the world around us”.

“We find things that excite us. We try to stay childlike in ourselves,” said Jobson.

It’s not that we feel that we need to go back to being children - we’re happy with where we’re travelling and the age we are. We celebrate that really lovely time where the world is big and we make work that is honest, but playful at heart.

‘It’s about what makes us human’

They try to make work that’s accessible and enjoyable for grandparents and parents, “so then they can go away and have a conversation with each other”.

They don’t shy away from bringing difficult or scary subjects to the stage.

Our themes are about adventure – it’s about what makes us human, to explore that, to question it, to celebrate it. We have flaws and not to feel that we can’t expose a child to some things that maybe occur in life. Like what we perceive as weakness is actually a vulnerability we have as humans – and not to be afraid of that. Give them something they can immerse themselves in.

“If something is scary it is to respect that it is scary – don’t undermine that the trolls are scary,” said Jobson.

Maybe the wolf in stories or things like that, we undermine [them] but actually we should let the child take that it is scary and it’s alright to be scared sometimes.

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There are six performers on the road bringing A Little Light across Ireland.

“It’s really important to get out to rural communities,” said Jobson. “We do outdoor theatre as well, we have a tent ourselves. We can go to a field or non-venue based places and we can put up our tent there and do performances.”

It’s amazing how we do come across audiences who have never been to the theatre, and that reminds you why you’re doing it.

Monkeyshine are very keen to make sure children don’t miss out on theatre just because of where they live.

“Apart from fulfilling your own creative need, [it's] from a point of getting out there and making sure someone experiences the artform. It’s very special – the audio and the visual mix of theatre is an exciting space to be in and to share that with people is great.”

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“We make theatre for the whole tribe in society - whether you’re a child, a parent, a grandparent,” said Jobson.

Monkeyshine presents Little Light:

  • Dublin’s Civic Theatre in Tallaght, 11 December
  • Tipperary’s Source Arts Centre, 13 December
  • Castlebar’s Linenhall Arts Centre, 17 December
  • Newbridge’s Riverbank Arts Centre, 18 December
  • Dun Laoghaire’s Pavilion Theatre, 22 December.

For full details on tour dates, visit the Monkeyshine website.

Read: “The point that he’s making is the bull**** of the upper classes – we’re still unchanged now”>

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