Some of you may be familiar with The Little Worry People, sometimes referred to as Worry Dolls, a Mayan myth which sought to chase away children’s worries by placing these miniature dolls under their pillow.
The Little Worry People in Nicosia however, is the name of a children’s theatre school. Their choice of name invokes the Mayan myth in one particular area: a sheer dedication to enforcing children’s self-confidence and self-respect through creative theatre workshops.
Nicoletta Christoforou and Andrei Krupa made their start in 2005 when they rented a space at the University of Nicosia where they held three hour workshops of art, creative drawing and theatre games for children on Saturdays.
Both graduates from the Saint Petersburg State Theatre Arts Academy where they obtained an MA in Art of Acting and Theatre Education, it was when Christoforou was introduced to Shed, a prototype Theatre Workshop in the UK that she began to think about bringing a similar institution to the island.
Today, The Little Worry People have their own private space, a multifunctional space seen as here, they now not only hold children’s theatre workshops but also other activities. Up to now, the duo have performed professional creative theatre performances, written, directed and performed by themselves in rented theatre spaces, something they have decided to do accordingly in their own space.
“We didn’t know how people would react (to this new venture). We went through a phase (after the Eurogroup meeting in March) when we were psychologically down; as artists we take in people’s vibes in strongly. And so we decided to create a small, cosy, pleasant space, to feel closer to the spectator, to make it a little more familial, something which doesn’t exist in Cyprus at the moment,” explained Christoforou.
Professionally, Christoforou and Krupa’s acting has seen them take to the stage at the National Theatre of Cyprus (Thoc) where both worked for a number of years, and although they both continue to act professionally, their own performances and the workshops, as Christoforou explained is where their heart is.
Taking children in from the age of three for the “No Worry People” workshops and from the age of five for the “Little Worry People”, both groups work towards an end of year theatre performance based on what has been taught throughout the year.
“Our approach is mostly about self-respect and self-confidence. We deal with freedom of expression of which I believe there is a lack here in Cyprus. Not always, but generally there is an issue with language, that we have a dialect and there are intolerances about this; some people don’t understand that we can mix both languages without having any problems. Actually, it’s not a problem, it’s positive that one can switch from one to the other,” reveals Christoforou.
“This freedom of expression doesn’t matter, what matters is feeling comfortable with oneself, in the mind, in spirit, it’s a matter of seeing how you place yourself in a process.”
Beyond recognising this, their aim is to teach it.
“I thoroughly believe that whatever profession you do in your life, whether a salesman or a doctor, you have to know how to stand up for yourself, to be able to talk comfortably, to be able to present yourself, to be able to carry out a presentation and know a couple of tricks to win the other over, communication is a must.”
Christoforou is quick to point out that although children’s self-confidence and communication lies at the core of their teachings, children need to also know when to talk and when not to so that self-confidence does not become audacity.
“If a child sees someone with grey hair, they shouldn’t call him a “papou” (grandfather). You don’t know the reasons behind the grey hair…children need to learn that there are ways to talk to people,” she affirms.
Seeing every child as an individual, Christoforou is the first to admit that identifying each child’s character and working with it is of prime importance. Yet she differentiates between character and one’s potential to build on it.
“What can you do with wit that can’t be seen?” she asks me.
Their other aim is cultivating theatre culture; for children to be able to recognise good theatre, to come into contact with the arts of theatre in general and understand different levels of theatre, a performance that’s great or not and to have critical thinking on the subject matter.
The Little Worry People work in the Greek Language and are based in Makedonitissa in Nicosia. Currently, they are holding three theatre performances including “Fovasai to Skotadi? (Are you afraid of the dark?), “Yia Sou” (Hello) and “Tarabouska, Thes mia thesi stin Kardia mou? (Tarabouska, do you want a place in my heart?) which they are performing both in their own space and at Kasteliotissa Hall in Nicosia.
For more information about the school and its performances visit http://thelittleworrypeople.a5.ru/ or look for them on Facebook.