Hugh Brown of the Northern Ireland theater company Cahoots gets right to the point: Children are the toughest audience around.
“They will walk away if they don’t like it,” Brown says. “They are a challenge. They are not polite, like adults can be. They will tell you the truth.”
Luckily, most of the young children who come to see “Shh! We Have a Plan,” which will be performed at the Ware Center on Sunday afternoon, love it.
“A lot of parents say they have never seen their kids so quiet. They are so connected to what is going on onstage,” Brown says.
If the name Cahoots sounds familiar, it’s because the group was at the Ware Center about two years ago with a show called “Egg.” Brown was a part of that show.
Like the show coming Sunday, “Egg” was devised for very young children, and it’s a gentle but gripping tale.
And like "Egg," this new story is sensory-friendly and non-verbal.
“I loved Lancaster,” Brown says. “This time, we get to stay a few days. I’ve brought my bike along, so I can ride around and see things.”
“Shh! We Have a Plan” is based on a book by Chris Haughton, which Brown discovered and thought would work well for the company.
“I felt it had the same energy as ‘Egg.’ And it has an important message, which kids understand instinctively. We make theater so that parents and children can talk about it after. We want to empower children to talk; it’s important.”
“Shh! We Have a Plan” is about a family (Brown as the father, Claire Cogan as the mother and Philippa O’Hara as the daughter) that sees a beautiful bird — manned by puppeteer Lorcan Reed.
“They are in a magical forest and they stumble upon this beautiful bird,” Brown explains. “They want to try and capture it. Not to hurt it; they just want it.”
The father becomes obsessed and is full of schemes to capture the bird, none of which work.
“The bird is much smarter than me,” Brown says. “There are elements of classic comedy here — Laurel and Hardy, Chaplin — great slapstick. The kids love it when the bird gets one up on the human.”
The father’s antics get more and more ridiculous.
“If you don’t love that bird, the audience won’t go along with the story,” Brown says.
But the daughter comes to realize that capturing the bird is not a good idea.
“(The parents) learn from their daughter to live connected. We don’t need to capture everything. We can live in peace with it.”
About 40 minutes long, the show is appropriate for ages 3 and up. Cahoots designs shows that can be enjoyed by everyone.
“The visual aspect is important for the smallest children,” Brown says. “From the start of the show, it’s magical. We want to keep the kids on the edge of their seats.”¶