Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

New gay penguin stage production for children in Northern Ireland

By Sarah Henderson

A new stage production for children about two same-sex penguins who hatch an abandoned egg together and raise it as a chick is a good 'starting point' for conversations about equal marriage in Northern Ireland, its director has said.

Penguins, a non-verbal performance that fuses ballet and contemporary dance, is the creation of Cahoots NI, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Prime Theatre and is inspired by a true story that was reported in the New York Times in May 2004.

The story centred on two male Chinstrap penguins, Roy and Silo, who were observed by staff at Central Park Zoo in New York, to be engaging in mating rituals typical of their species. The pair went on to raise a chick together and were dubbed 'the gay penguins' by the newspaper when the story first broke.

Award-winning director Paul Bosco McEneaney of Cahoots NI, which is renowned for its innovative work for children and families, said the story was basically one about family and love and that it was particularly relevant to Northern Irish society. And he said he hoped it would spark debate among children about issues such as what constitutes family and equal marriage.

"When I first heard the story about the penguins in New York I thought it was fascinating and just had to be told, especially given what's happening in our society at the moment and the equal marriage debate being played out in public," he said.

"As an artist this is something I felt I needed to respond to; the whole concept of family and how we view it. I wanted it to be an interesting starting point to a conversation that could be explored in the car going home from the theatre."

Penguins, which has been touring for a month already, is one of two shows being staged by Cahoots NI at the MAC Theatre as part of Belfast Children's Festival. The other show is The Assistant's Revenge, a murder mystery with a magical twist.

n Both shows kick off at the MAC next weekend. To book tickets, contact Young at Art on 028 90243042 or call the MAC box office on 028 90235053.

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