Chiara Hyzler is directing JamBoy, part of the ŻiguŻajg Children’s Festival. She explains how the play targets the competitive element we foster in today’s students.
What was your first reaction when you read the script?
As a member of the Shrinking Violets, I was very much part of the creative process, which is a part I really enjoy. With a storyline like JamBoy‘s, there are so many possibilities, characters and journeys that could work. When I received the first draft from Denise (Mulholland), I was laughing out loud in some moments… and then was very touched in others, which is a wonderful mix.
What attracted you to taking up the role of director?
As a person who works with children on a daily basis, I was very interested in delivering this story that deals with students within an educational system that needs some tweaking.
As a director I very much enjoy a storytelling angle with lots of movement and a touch of craziness, which is exactly what this story has. I was attracted to the idea of one actor becoming so many different characters, so quickly, with the use of only a pair of specs.
What are the biggest challenges translating Denise’s script to the stage?
Perhaps the toughest area is the idea of these various characters which one actor must transform into so quickly and in a way that is engaging, memorable and easily understood by the audience.
This requires a lot of props and physicality, which is fun, but tricky. Staging this performance in the round theatre at Spazju Kreativ adds another angle, because you must always cater for the fact that there is an audience behind you. So, there is never time for the action to stop revolving and moving.
What do you feel this piece says about our education/social system?
I think it sheds light on the fact that we still consider academic results to be the defining factor within a student’s educational success. Although we are making good strides in recognising students’ talents and catering for different ways of learning, we find ourselves reaching a point at which this stops and expectations change to the idea of achieving this so called excellence which is a very ambiguous and harmful word.
What defines it? Who defines it? When do we know when it’s achieved? How do we achieve it if it keeps evolving?
Would you say the excessive competition that can blight children’s lives?
Competition and comparisons can be healthy if done in careful manner. Students push each other along directly and indirectly. A student will always feel like they need to improve something if they notice that their friends are achieving more, because they are being perhaps more committed and organised.
However, and this should be in big bold letters, no student learns the same way as another. And, therefore, no student is the same and students need to be reminded that they are different, and that is absolutely 100% acceptable.
In this way, we start to create a community of students who complement each other. They will eventually realise that they do not need to achieve everything their friend has, because they are stronger at other things, and that is more than ok, it’s a bonus.
The piece’s catchphrase is ‘it’s all about perspective’ – can you elaborate?
Everyone is different and everyone has their own ideas and perspectives about the world around us and the people living in it. It would be short-sighted and detrimental to a child’s development, to put them into a box and expect them to occupy that box for the rest of their lives.
There is so much more to an individual (children and adults alike) that what we see in front of us. Everyone has a story, we just need to make time to listen to it.
The story of JamBoy does exactly that, it encourages everyone to listen to each other’s story and look beyond what you see in front of you. It is not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. This is the ultimate message of the show.
What are the ‘real’ superhero traits in the production?
To look beyond what you see in front of you and celebrate every individual for who they really are and for what makes them different.