People don’t listen to children. That’s an hour long show in one sentence; I’ve saved you over a tenner.
Children’s words through the mouths of adults is nothing revolutionary; it’s what you do with those words that should be. Monkey Bars wasn’t. Sadly, for some people it will be a revelation to realise that children have opinions, that they see everything and, while they might not have the most extensive of vocabularies at a young age, they can articulate just as well as you or I, given then chance.
So what exactly was the piece trying to get at, other than the obvious?
Perhaps because I’m a writer, I have a bit of an issue with a play seemingly meaning no more than it’s intention: people don’t listen to children. It feels too superficial. It was a pleasant hour, visually entertaining and putting children’s words into adult situations is an interesting concept. I just have no idea what I was meant to leave the show with.
There were two things I struggled with the most, one of which was the use of the Muslim children, and here begins my problem with a show meaning no more than it’s intention. Their words held a lot of power for people so young. To be that straight-minded and clear on what is and isn’t good was, for me, quite disturbing. With each story handpicked for this performance, and since it goes without saying that everything put and said on stage is on purpose, I’m still having trouble understanding why theirs were chosen.
What was he trying to say by including their voices? Broadly speaking, yes, he was including them. But to have a child say to you “My God loves war” and that is why they learn what they can about the various Middle-Eastern conflicts, what does that mean? Echoing a course-mate, was he implying that children are being raised to be bigoted? Or is it only the Muslim faith raising them that way? Put to a particular audience, he would in fact be reinforcing certain prejudices, and that isn’t right.
My other struggle was not being the target audience and, in all honesty, I don’t believe that the audience that night were targets, either.
Perhaps because for me, childhood wasn’t that long ago (I’d probably say I’m still living it and long may that continue), and I was never brought up to believe that I should know my place purely because I was a child. Thankfully I grew up with a mother who didn’t let me stay in anyone else’s company until I was able to verbalise events, on the off chance that something went wrong when she wasn’t there, i.e. when someone says “Don’t tell your Mum“, you do the exact opposite.
As such a large proportion of my childhood involved my Mum’s friends visiting, I would speak to them (whether they wanted me to or not is another matter). They were told to speak to me like you would speak to anyone else, just with simpler language. Hell, I was the kid that gave the profound statement “I know I’m special, Mum; everyone is” aged five.
I asked my Mum what games do you play at work, which prompted her, her colleagues and her boss to play Hide & Seek.
Countless times do I remember saying “I know“, and my Mum would marvel at how much I was certain about when I was so young.
Note that this isn’t bragging, merely my experience. Sadly, there are so many kids out there who will never know that kind of an upbringing, which is a shame. And for that reason alone, perhaps Monkey Bars will be that revelation people need.