THEATRICAL wisdom has it that you should never work with animals or children.
But what if they are your audience?
The very youngest of theatre goers — plus the odd Hollywood A-lister — seem to be the preferred target audience for Andy Manley, who comes to Eden Court next week with the play A Small Story aimed at youngsters as young as two.
"They are a very honest audience. Also for many of them it’s the first time they come into a theatre. They can come into this black space and think they are going to be there for the rest of their days, so there’s that to deal with. They are a tough audience, but a very rewarding one," Manley said.
The show has been co-devised with Berlin-based actress and director Ania Michaelis — along with a test group of Berlin four year olds who clearly told them Manley and Michaelis where they thought they were going wrong.
"We decided we wanted to tell a story about life really — the relationships in life and the things that happen to you — but we wanted to do it in a very simple way so we do it with objects we find in a place which is a bit like a room that someone has just left," Manley explained.
"There’s a pepperpot, and a hole-punch and a body-scrubber that get married. Over the course of the show we tell a story about going on a journey, somebody dying, somebody being born, and so on."
Manley first began working with children shortly after leaving drama college after noticing a lack of suitable theatre entertainment for youngsters.
"The early years stuff we came to by asking: how low can you go? We knew we could do shows for four and five year olds and sometimes their younger brothers and sisters would come along," Manley said.
"I borrowed my godson and took him off to places and saw what interested him and the things that fascinated him, but also as an artist, you have got to make the things that fascinate you because you are probably going to be with that project for two years."
However, Manley is not the only adult he has to think about in creating the show.
"I want the show to be engaging for the young people and the adults. That’s important to me," he said.
"They have all paid money to come and see the show so I want the adults to enjoy it just as much. I love it when they say: ‘I loved it too.’ Well you should, because you’re part of the audience too. Finding that balance is tricky. It has to be small enough and simple enough to be understood, but also deep enough to be fulfilling and satisfying."
Some of those audience members can be very familiar.
In New York previous show White included among its audience Sex in The City star Sarah Jessica Parker and movie star couple Live Schreiber and Naiomi Watts, while in LA it featured not just a film star, but a superhero in the shape of Robert Downey Jr.
"It was funny because we had this little boy who was wearing Iron Man slippers," Manley said.
"I was thinking: you have no idea that Iron Man is sitting at the other end of the row!"
• Starcatchers present A Small Story at The Jim Love Studio, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, from Wednesday 21st to Saturday 24th May at 10.30am and 1.30pm.