Company: Polyglot
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Forecourt

Year the project commenced: 2017
Year it became impossible: 2020
Audience not reached: 1500​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Boats is an adventurous play space for children of all ages, using colourful vessels to navigate urban seascapes.  At a central mooring place, large lightweight boats wait patiently for children’s imagination and energy. Once aboard, the boats are propelled by a flurry of feet, with kids working as a crew for their own voyage across the high seas. As the boats journey, Polyglot artists float as castaways to be rescued or as mysterious elements of the urban ocean. Together artists and children guide the boats to safe harbour ready for new crew and the next adventure!
“COVID-19 stopped all our participatory play space works. Immersive theatre and play wasn't possible with restrictions around connection and the extra sanitisation and the sheer number restrictions.  This is true for all theatre, but for those of us working in participation, this was an extra challenge. How to imagine a way that 20 years of work could be seen and experienced again was a huge cloud over my head. Everything we believed in - children with agency at the centre of art making and play, physical connection of strangers to create community, simple materials that enable freedom of imagination, sustainability and simplicity, art that is free and in public space - all this was under threat.”   “All that said we took on the challenge of making the impossible possible and felt Boats was a project that might be able to withstand the changes and still retain some of its creative charm.   Firstly it had to be made from wipe-downable material. Cloth was out and plastic in.  Then we had to get rid of shared boats, so the big ones that held lots of folk had to go and we concentrated on the 24 small boats.   We had to remove any shared props, removing certain elements that filled the world and inventing new ones.   For example - on each of the 5 islands there was a treasure chest with a note book inside, where children wrote or drew their stories about the island. This we replaced with situational speakers that held audio of the island - stories from the previous day told by children on their journey. The stories collected each day by the Habourmaster would then be added to the audio for the next days' sessions.”
“Our performers had to have their own designated props and separate change rooms, rehearsal was around distance movement and keeping 1.5m away and how to engage with children without closeness.     Boats actually had a public outcome set for the school holiday in July , on the Arts Centre Melbourne forecourt. All was ready  - our re-design, our rehearsal process, our risk management and registration processes - and then there was another outbreak of the virus and it was all over.”
 “The opportunity to re-design and re-imagine was stimulating, once we'd got over the grief of changing a work that was successful for so many reasons that now didn't make sense. This opportunity also made us think through access and inclusion for all our works, for re-useable materials rather than recyclable, for different modes of participation and child-centred practice.  All useful stuff.   Who knows how public performance will rise again, when last minute interruptions change everything? We'd hoped to have another chance in September - but again the virus numbers have risen and we are in lock down once more. Still, we persevere. At the moment we are looking at every project we have for possibilities of adaptation, and creating new ones with COVID 19 in mind.” – Sue Giles, 2020

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