Ready, Steady, SHOW! (RSS) is The Civic’s Festival for Young Audiences. Earlier this year we invited some of the best practitioners in this field to come and play at The Civic and present their ideas and to apply for our Ready Steady SHOW! Commissions and Artist Development Programme. We are delighted to announce the recipients and are excited to work with them and support the development of their ideas as we find new and innovative ways of engaging and reimagining work for 0 – 12 year olds during COVID-19.  Next up we catch up with Anna Newell, who is The Civic’s Early Years Associate Artist. We have collaborated with Anna on many projects over the past 3 years. Anna has re-imagined her show BigKidLittleKid as part of this years RSS Commissions and also brings her wealth of experience to the project as a mentor to the Artists!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, based now and your background in the Arts?
I’ve been working as a professional theatre director now for over 30 years, first of all in Scotland, then in Northern Ireland and, for the last 4 years based in Bray.  I used to make big shows for adults created by both professional and community casts – and I also accidentally started a large-scale women’s acapella harmony singing group in Dundee 25 years ago (which still going!!).  About 12 years ago, I realised that I really wanted to make work for young audiences and for the last 4 years, all of my work has been for the very young, including babies (my youngest audience member was 4 days old) and children and young people with profound disabilities.   My shows for Early Years have been seen on 6 continents, I was the first artist in Ireland to make shows for children with complex needs, I invented the world’s first BabyDay and helped start baby theatre in South Africa.

Can you tell us a little bit about the recent things you have been working on ?
SING ME TO THE SEA – A show for children with complex needs that is performed in hydropools with both audience and performers in the water!
I AM BABA – a show about identity, personhood and agency.  For babies aged under 12 months.
BigKidLittleKid – a physical theatre show for audiences age 3-6 about having the complicated world of sibling rivalry.  As well as these shows here in Ireland (all of which have been co-produced with The Civic), I’ve also been working on MESS – a devised classroom adventure for children with complex needs in Scotland; and LITTLE MONSTER – a show for children aged 3-5 – in Brighton.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you are working on for Ready Steady, SHOW! The idea, the audience where you are at at the minute?
For Ready, Steady, SHOW!, I’m delighted to be taking BigKidLittleKid and re-imaginging it as a semi-improvised popup show that plays school playgrounds and other outdoor spaces.  The two performers in the show, Mary-Lou McCarthy and Nicky Harley, are two of the most amazing improvisers I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with – and so I’m very much looking forward to finding a new theatrical language with them for these times, that takes physical distancing (I hate calling it social distancing as my work is all about human connection) and plays with it in a whimsical, gentle and engaging way.

What’s it like under Quarantine, how have you been working/ engaging, any insights about life or the Arts?
We were 3 weeks into a 10 week national tour of I AM BABA when everything stopped.  I’ve had more than 6 projects impacted and have had to keep re-imaginging how things might be able to be.  It took about 6 weeks of being quite lost and wondering if I should just go off and get a whole other job before I managed to resurface.  It became very clear to me then that, for me and for my audiences, digital just wasn’t an option.  And I realised that how I needed to think was this:  my work is, at its heart, incredibly responsive, flexible and bespoke to its audience members – and what I needed to do was take this to a whole other level.  So now I have a whole programme of work for the rest of 2020 – a set of hopeful experiments (including BigKidLittleKid re-imaginged for RSS) which may or may not happen, depending on how the reopening of the country goes.  You can get a look at the programme here – . I’m excited about it. Fingers crossed.
Also I baked.  A lot.  And did a load of yoga.  And walked up Bray Head EVERY SINGLE WEEKDAY.  And will do until we’re into the next stage…….

Tell us a random fact about yourself for fun!
In February this year, just a few weeks before my 53rd birthday, I qualified as a Level 1 ski instructor in Canada.  So you can teach an old dog new tricks!!!


Ready, Steady, SHOW! developments will take place over the Summer & into the Autumn. Stay tuned to our Website & Social Media Channels for more!