Making stimulating theatre for young people

Oily Cart, currently presenting its show Tube at the Unicorn Theatre, has been making stimulating theatre for more than thirty years, touring from its base in an annex to Smallwood School in Tooting. Performances are often sold out, as in the current Unicorn season, but there are many theatregoers who don’t know about them.

That is because it specialises in making work for the very young and for people who are thought of as being hard to reach because of sensory or cognitive impairments. A version of Tube for babies and toddlers will have its first performances at Tara Arts.

Howard Loxton talked to Artistic Director Tim Webb MBE and began by asking how he came to be involved in this very special kind of theatre.

"My first job was as an ASM with Citizens Theatre Glasgow which had a theatre-in-education company. It had gone through various permutations but by the time I got involved with it in the 1970s it was called Glasgow Citizen’s Theatre for Youth. I was writing shows for them and also performing in them.

"It was a very distinguished company actually because Billy Paterson was in it, and Alex Norton, and me—they all went on to great things by the way—and that’s when I got interested in the possibilities of theatre for young people.

"From there I went on to work with another TIE company in Greenwich, the Lewisham Young People’s Theatre, which still exists. In those companies I did a lot of work for all sorts of ages and all sorts of abilities of young people. In Glasgow for instance we did a show for people with learning disabilities in one school. I think I came to realise then you can make effective theatre for very young audiences and audiences that have got intellectual disabilities."