Family fun is all a tangle
Family fun is all a tangle

Imagine a kaleidoscopic playground constructed like a giant spider's web using copious bands of brightly coloured elastic. Now imagine you're perched within this labyrinthine mesh, attached to one of the thousands of strands of this elastic as your kids duck and weave around you, each with their own colourful reins in this crazy bendy string ball. Feeling delightfully tangled already?

Well this is exactly how Polyglot Theatre Company artistic director Sue Giles hopes the creation Tangle will feel for people of all ages when it springs into town this week for the Perth International Arts Festival. Polyglot is an Australian children's theatre institution. Operating from Melbourne since the 1970s, it is best known for highly imaginative, interactive work which is often inspired by the play and the ideas of children themselves.

In this case it was the fun, cubbyhouse games with string that her own children played in the backyard that originally sparked the Tangle concept for Giles.

"My kids used to make webs in the back garden with string . . . I think everyone's kids do that at some stage - tangling up the kitchen chairs, that sort of thing," Sue recounts. "And I thought it would be really neat to do that on a huge scale, but with elastic."

So with the idea in the bag, the next question for Giles and Polyglot was how to make this malleable giant maze a reality.

"We did a lot of research in this area as we wanted something really soft, really easy for kids to use," she says. "And then when our touring party was in Korea recently one of them discovered an entire neighbourhood that made elastic!"

Seizing on this elastic land of plenty was key to bringing Tangle to life, and Giles estimates the company has now used about 600km of the stuff in performances thus far. "That's basically as long as a trip from Melbourne to Adelaide if you think about it!" she says.

And how does the work feel for its many weavers of all shapes and sizes? "We try and create another world that we invite the kids in to," Giles explains. "Our performers create a feeling, an atmosphere, with music and with the visual environment.

"And, in fact, the web can become quite dense in parts . . . For kids this is generally easy to negotiate, but it can be more of a struggle for the adults. And that's been a really interesting aspect of the project - watching that dynamic unfold. It can sometimes be a challenge for the adults to throw themselves in."

But these testing twists and turns for adults aren't necessarily all bad news.

"You know what I love most about this work, actually," Giles says, "it's inadvertent exercise. It's like guerilla activity - you don't realise some of the incredible physical things that you're doing in the web. It certainly takes the boredom out of exercise!

"And, of course, there's also that glorious moment when people step back from the whole thing and go 'Oh my God, we did that!', looking at this huge, beautiful, colourful piece of public art they've just created."

Tying up the kids in a magical sharps-free play-space, plus an inadvertent Pilates workout for you - who knew elastic bands could be so much fun?

The West Australian

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