Development Diaries: Tammy & Kite

How much do children perceive of the world around them? And how much to adults perceive of the world of children? Montague Basement Presents: Tammy & Kite at Erskineville Town Hall from 13 to 17 September, tickets available here.

Kite is nine years old, and her life is full - of friends, of school, of handball and Healthy Harold. But every afternoon when she comes home from school, a darker side of her world threatens to creep in. In her bedroom, where the real and the imaginary collide, Kite uses the only tool she has - play - to learn how to articulate and navigate a world that is bigger and more unpredictable than she can understand. 

Most children use play and the imagination as key tools for growth and development. They learn new skills through play and through acting out what they see others do. Some children use their imaginations to experiment with different facets of their personalities, or to create imaginary friends who can speak on behalf of them. It seems obvious that a child would express themselves through play, since this is their chief mode of communication and social interaction, and it is this basic attitude that directs many contemporary theories of child psychology and therapy. In Tammy & Kite, we explore the power of a child’s imagination, not only as a tool for creative expression, but as a way of articulating pain and navigating grief. In this piece, the imaginary is used not as a way to sidestep or trivialise the pain of a child who has experienced loss, but as a way to express it.

The biggest challenge that we have faced in creating this show has been finding a way to express the pain of loss, without ignoring the fact that Kite is an inherently resilient and happy child. We have explored and tried to reconcile these conflicting ideas through the relationships we have created between Kite and her sister Tammy, and between Kite’s reality and her imaginary world. 

While the story is told almost totally from Kite’s perspective, weI have tried to ensure that this in no way diminishes the depth of the character of Tammy. As a teenager who is also trying to cope with a kind of grief, Tammy has an equally fascinating and important story to tell. For both of these characters, their stories are told best when they are together. We have, from the outset, wanted to depict a sibling relationship that was messy and honest, but anchored by love. Through her relationship with her little sister, Tammy is able to express thoughts and emotions that she perhaps cannot even articulate to herself. Similarly, the time that Kite spends with her sister is crucial to her ability to eventually come to terms with ideas that were perhaps overwhelming at first.

Creating a blurred line between the real and the imagined has also provided room for us to think about some really important and fascinating ideas. We’ve built puppets (well, Hannah has built puppets!), manipulated light and shadow, and commissioned an absolutely stunning soundscape (kudos to Josie Gibson and Alexis Weaver) in order to create a space between real life and the imaginary, where symbolism and imagery can be used to better express emotions that might otherwise be impossible for a child to articulate or understand. 

Through this piece, we hope to give voice to something that is so often drowned out by the adult world, and to legitimise and learn from the ways in which children experience and express loss, grief and pain.