Last chance to see: Siobhan Davies Dance: material/rearranged/to/be

We absolutely love the Barbican. Granted, we are very guilty of forgetting to check-in on what’s on most of the time, but if you’re brave enough to venture into quite a grown up domain and wade through the sea of remote workers, you’re sure to be rewarded with an awe-inspiring space for youngsters to explore, as well as a brilliant (if a little sporadic) programme of family friendly theatre, film and art.

Inspired to reacquaint yourself with the space? Well be quick, because for just over a week (finishing this Saturday) Siobhan Davies Dance has transformed the superb (and free) ground floor Curve gallery into a wonderland of installation and performance art, which plays out as an ever-changing moveable feast.

So what’s it all about?

Having evolved from a dance company into a contemporary arts organisation, Siobhan Davies Dance: material/rearranged/ to/be is a performance installation which explores the relationship between science, movement and the mind, as well as the interaction of art with the space itself. The installation features 10 artists, each performing different works at different times, and in different sections of the Curve. Generally there will be more than one performance going on at a time, with film projections and sculpture seen alongside the performance art.

What’s to love?

The performance art itself is absolutely mesmerising for younger viewers. It was thrilling when Helka Kaski made eye contact with my little one as part of her performance Figuring, while the giant shadows cast behind Charlie Morrissey during his performance Actions from the Encyclopaedia of Experience, made this work all the more compelling. It was interesting to see how much my youngster was keen to copy and mimic postures.

Being completely free and on a 4 hour loop, it’s a much less intense gallery experience for you and the kids. With so many performances going on as you journey through the space, we spent a good half an hour exploring, before moving on to have a break in the cafe and a mill around the site, returning later to see new and different material.

Notes for visiting families

Gallery attendants at the Barbican look panicked by the very presence of youngsters, so reiterate the rules of the gallery with little ones just before you head in (no touching, just looking) and reassure them that nothing will be compromised.

The moveable set which forms a backdrop to the performance pieces, can be tricky to negotiate but forms a really interesting layout, and don’t worry if you want to move past before the end of the work. Plenty of visitors were braving a quick pass in front of projectors to get to the next piece. You’re not spoiling it any more, just because you’re choosing to move on with children in tow.

Beware of Matthias Sperling’s Loop Atlas. This sequence is all about the relationship between the mind and the body, but Sperling’s bearded appearance, accompanied by dark glasses, together with the repetitive movements had a slight air of insanity. It’s brilliant to watch but did slightly spook my sensitive 3 year old.

Finally, it took us a while to work out that the headphones on the audio installation aren’t just for grown ups. They are on a pulley, which means they can actually be lowered and listened to by those in wheelchairs and those under 4 feet tall, and we all know how much kids love a bit of audio.

Siobhan Davies Dance: material/rearranged/to/be is on at the Curve, Barbican Centre
Exhibition runs until 28th January
Admission free
Mon to Thurs 12 to 6pm, Fri 2 to 8pm, Sat 12 to 6pm

A Five Star Bouncy Castle has arrived at the Pumphouse Gallery. And it’s art.

If you gave your kids £7000 to spend on whatever they wanted, how do you think they would spend it? Adopt a range of wild animals to keep in the garden? A trip to Disneyworld? Maybe deck out their bedroom with every piece of technology imaginable?

Well artist Pilvi Takala did exactly that with the members of one London youth centre, as part of her project The Committee. The result was a custom-made bouncy castle called “Five Star Bouncy House”, created for their own enjoyment as well as providing the opportunity to be hired out to raise much-needed funds for their club.

More than three years later, in an exhibition for the Pumphouse Gallery, Takala revisits the group to hear their thoughts and feelings following the centre’s closure due to funding cuts. She also reflects on what that piece now means for the children, and for society, in the wake of its demise.

The artist’s documentary forms the main part of the exhibition, but more exciting perhaps for visiting families, is the bouncy castle itself, which is free (yes free!) to explore (yes! bounce around on!) every weekend until 26th March.

There is no age restriction in relation to who can get involved in the inflatable fun, but every visitor will be assessed by attendants, and poor weather conditions might also scupper plans.

That said, every other Sunday from 15th January there will be a series of interactive family workshops with artist-cum-anthropologist Emma McGarry. These are free to drop in to and explore a range of themes from safety, the power of words, freedom and play. It also goes without saying that the grounds of Battersea Park where the gallery is housed, is fabulous all year round, with a recently refurbished children’s playground, a peace pagoda, its own zoo and close proximity to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Pilvi Takala is exhibiting until 26th March
Pumphouse Gallery, Battersea Park, London, SW11 4NJ
Weds to Sun 11am – 5pm, closed Mon and Tues and when no exhibition is on
Five Star Bouncy House is weekends only, weather permitting
Admission Free

Enjoy the silence: Family friendly highlights from the London International Mime Festival

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I reviewed the fabulous Kite at the Soho Theatre, part of the London International Mime Festival. Having criticised the festival in the past for having too few family friendly performances, in this, their 40th anniversary year, the festival has come back bigger and broader with even more on offer for younger viewers.

Promising the very best and newest work, this month-long celebration of contemporary visual theatre embraces circus, mask and puppetry, as well as physical and object theatre, showcasing home-grown talent alongside artists from all over the world. Although most performances are still biased towards the evening, there are plenty of weekend matinees to choose from.

Here’s our top 5 picks…

Barons Perchés at the Platform Theatre, Central Saint Martins (Age 7+)
11th to 14th January, Wed to Fri 7.30pm, Sat 6pm, Tickets £18 (£16 concessions)
70 mins/no interval
In a sequel to Fenêtres, a production inspired by Italo Calvino’s story, The Baron in the Trees, this story rejoins the disillusioned young nobleman in his self-imposed exile, now with the appearance of an unexplained companion. Whether a shadow, a brother, doppelgänger or his alter ego, Mathurin Bolze’s unique physical theatre, explores how the friendship plays out inside their intimate living space.

Teatro Delusio at The Peacock Theatre (Age 7+)
12th to 15th January, Thurs to Sat 7.30pm, Sun 2.30pm, Tickets £15 to £29
70 mins/no interval
Don’t be spooked by the curious masks! Instead, be wowed by three impressive quick-change artists playing some thirty different characters, as leading theatre company Familie Flöz bring their Edinburgh comedy to London. Set backstage in a concert hall, three theatrical technicians feel they’re on the wrong side of the curtain, and imagine life in the spotlight, as they battle to fulfil their own dreams and ambitions.

Marée Basse at the Barbican Theatre (Age 8+)
17th to 21st January, Tues to Sat 6.30pm, Sat matinee 1pm, Tickets £18
60 mins / no interval
Most of us parents and carers are more than familiar with that dip in the day when thoughts start to turn to drink, but you might be less aware that it is commonly known as ‘marée basse’. Sounding almost like a Two Ronnies sketch, having hit the bottle, faded variety acrobats Benjamin and Mickael embark on a journey of one-upmanship, which is not for the faint-hearted. Daring acrobatics, knife-throwing and even apple peeling, feature in Sacekripa‘s deadpan clown around, all set in their ramshackle home.

Nothing to Say at Jacksons Lane (Age 5+)
20th to 22nd January, Fri 8pm, Sat 6pm, Sun 3pm, Tickets £18 (£16 concession)
70 mins / no interval
Winner of both the 2014 Barcelona City Circus and Catalunia Circus awards, this playful performance by Leandre takes classic clowning away from slapstick comedy and into a more charming space, promising to enchant young viewers with a host of magic and surprise in this UK premiere.

Throwback at Jacksons Lane (Age 8+)
1st to 4th February, Wed to Thurs 8pm, Fri 7pm, Sat 6pm, Tickets £18 (£16 concessions)
60 mins/no interval
With their special blend of friendship, awe-inspiring skills and infectious energy, homegrown circus group Silver Lining combine impressive aerial and acrobatic work with memory and nostalgia, in this pacey feel-good spectacular.

London International Mime Festival runs from 9th January to 4th February 2017 across various London venues. See website for further productions, performance times and venue information.

For more ideas on enjoying arts and culture with the kids check out #culturedkids

the Pigeon Pair and Me