The production was the result of the company’s two-year collaboration with Amnesty International. Amnesty’s illustrated book ‘Dreams Of Freedom’ inspired Chickenshed’s production. It includes quotes from people such as Anne Frank, Nelson Mandela and many others, who faced prejudice and fear, yet continued to campaign for their ideals.
I used to be a performer, writer and part of the Young Creators’ scheme in Chickenshed, and I love their shows, so I had to check it out.
Dreams of Freedom was Chickenshed’s first time at the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington. Over 600 youngsters took part, including the Children’s Theatre members, a variety of schools, and the Tri-Borough Young Singer’s Choir.
Former Children’s Laureate, author and illustrator, Chris Riddel, and his biggest fan 9-year-old Jude, created drawings live on stage. These were broadcasted on large screens, turning the event into a multimedia affair. The audience sat surrounding the performance space, which was in the middle of the enormous venue.
The show opened with a video of a passionate speech by actor Angelina Jolie. She emphasised the importance of the younger generation’s opportunity to defend their human rights and freedoms, and create a better future for everyone.
In the show, our freedoms were identified as: the right to have ideas and express them, to be free from fear, to be yourself, and to take action on your beliefs, in a way that doesn’t harm others.
The song and sign-language performance of ‘Are You Ready to Hear Us?’, asked the audience to listen to the words and dreams of the performers. They sung and signed lyrics like, ‘We hope you understand…listen to our words’ implying that young people have something important to say. The song conveyed their unique visions for the future.
The powerful song ’Stand Up’ implored children to make a stand and emphasised that they don’t deserve to be pushed around or treated unfairly. The uplifting lyrics in the songs were influenced by the children’s own creations in workshops, and shaped into musical pieces by other Chickenshed participants.
An original piece called ‘Monsters’ sounded like something out of an Expressionist horror movie, with added contemporary influences. The music was developed by Chickenshed’s BTEC students.
Chickenshed’s unique style uses psychical theatre, to explain complex concepts. In the ‘Monsters’ scene, the children’s bodies twisted to convey hatred or frustration. This scene represented freedom-denying concepts like war and poverty. In a scenario where these things thrive, freedom of expression cannot.
Childrens’ voices played at intervals throughout the show, in the form of questions to the universe. They asked why some children must flee their homes, or are forbidden the freedom to express themselves.
Although the play was aimed at children, it touched on the kind of real and important issues that Amnesty International are involved in.
One of the freedom fighters mentioned in the play was Malala Yousafzai. She pushed for the right to education for girls in Pakistan, even while being pursued by the Taliban. Stories such as this can help young people see what it looks like when they are denied their rights, but also how they might follow the example of these people and stand up to injustice themselves.
In the finale of the production, children lifted candles in solidarity against the darkness. This demonstrated the power of many ideas to change the world for the better.
It was a remarkable night, and hopefully the children who performed will go on to do great things.
To learn more about Amnesty International, visit their website.
To find out about Chickenshed’s incredible inclusive creative work, visit their website.
To the wonderful people at the Royal Albert Hall – I am the visually impaired young person you helped to a closer seat so I could enjoy the performance. Thank you so much!