Discussing Children’s Theatre with Andrew Threlfall

“How the cat purred and how the witch grinned, As they sat on their broomstick and flew through the wind…”

Produced by CDP Theatre Producers, Room on the Broom, is about to open at Melbourne’s iconic Athenaeum Theatre. The show is a new adaptation of the picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and follows a witch whose broomstick has broken, and the adventure her and her friends must do to fix it. Full of physical theatre, puppetry, and music, this production of Room on the Broom is a wonderful experience for children aged 3-8 years.

Founded by Christine Dunstan and Andrew Threlfall, CDP has been described as “a reliable and prolific source of high-quality children’s theatre” (The Age). Their recent productions have included the world premieres of The 13-Storey Treehouse, The 26-Storey Treehouse, The 52-Storey Treehouse, The 78-Storey Treehouse, and Australian premieres of The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, and Room on the Broom.

Andrew Threlfall

Andrew is a producer, marketer, and performer with over 15 years experience. Before founding CDP, he held a range of positions including Production Development and Marketing Manager at the Seymour Centre, and General Manager of Audience Development Australia. He is currently one of the directors of CDP, and I had a chat with him about his journey through producing Children’s theatre ahead of Room on the Broom‘s opening.

Could you tell me a bit about your theatre history? How did you get into this industry?

I originally came into the theatre world as an actor, working in work for both young audiences and grownups. As well as mainstage gigs, I did quite a lot of work in independent theatre and got used to working in a range of roles on- and off-stage. That led me into producing on a small scale, and from there into venue management and ultimately into producing full time.

The cast of Room on the Broom | Photo by Heidrun Lohr

What is the most exciting part about producing children’s theatre?

Children and young people are an amazing audience. They’re incredibly direct and engaged; if they love something you know it, but if they don’t love it, you also know it. Most importantly they really bring such emotional commitment to every performance they attend. You can just feel them radiating love, warmth and commitment; they make a wonderful audience to play for.

Why do you think it is important to make theatre for kids?

Theatre offers a really unique opportunity to engage with children, and encourage them to think and dream about so many things. It also has proven benefits in young people’s general development… and it can be fun! But it is crucial that we make high quality theatre that seeks to engage with young audiences specifically and respectfully.

The cast of Room on the Broom | Photo by Heidrun Lohr

What can audiences expect from Room on the Broom?

It’s a beautiful show that brings the beloved book to life and a whole lot more – a chance to meet the characters, get to know a little more about them, and go on an exciting journey.

Do you have any advice for those aspiring to become theatre producers?

A good producer needs to be able to relate to people from all areas of the business. So it’s important to take the time to learn what everyone does that makes the theatre world turn, and to come to understand how all those diverse people come together to tell stories. Most importantly, theatre is a craft – it’s a practical thing. So get involved and do as much as you can across as many areas of the business as you can. And always remember the audience – they are why we are here, and why we have the opportunity to tell stories. It’s vital to keep asking “who is this for, and how can we engage with them?”

Room on the Broom opens at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre on January 10th.

Tickets are available at the Athenaeum Theatre Website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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