This article was originally published by Funnelwick Limb on 17th November 2020 during the development of The Chronicles of Atom & Luna.

In our third of the ‘meet the team’ blogs we chat to The Chronicles of Atom and Luna’s Creative Director, Nina Hajiyianni.

Nina this is your second project with Murray Lachlan Young, first tell us what you love most about Murray's writing for families. 

I love the way Murray plays with language. I think his storytelling and word play, evokes, teases and delights, it is rich and complex but also accessible. 

It is also very child-centred, if we think about the young protagonists he brings to life, and the world they exist within; it contains some universal ‘hero’s journey’ truths which are really compelling and which audiences connect with on an intrinsic level.  Children and young people are often at the ‘mercy’ of grown ups in real life, and in the fantastical worlds that Murray creates, this is pushed to the extreme in wonderfully dangerous and liberating ways. 

I’d say that sometimes the language can be slightly challenging for young audiences but I like that it doesn’t dumb down or patronise its audience, it’s invites children on a journey of discovery. 

And how do the two of you work together?  Whats your role in the process?

I very much respond to the work as Murray creates it, like any partnership, it is based on trust and mutual respect for each others opinions and ideas. The fact that text and storytelling is the driver for the work, I try to help shape the journey so that Murray’s words has the space it needs to work it’s magic. 

It’s often a question of simplification because Murray has so many incredible ideas. Basically, I try and ask the right questions at the right time and when we know the premise of the story - try to make sure we stick to that and that everything comes back to the main theme or idea.

Our tools have been WhatApp, email, Zoom and phone calls. I can’t remember the last time we were in the same room. 

What would you say lies at the heart of all your work?

I would say - a sense of curiosity and playfulness which aims to subvert. And within this emotional truth is paramount and is the bedrock on which we journey with our protagonists.

There can sometimes be a lack of depth in theatre, especially in work for children and families if we don’t respect the emotional inner worlds of our characters, concentrating too much on the external presentation of the world they are in.  I think this necessitates ‘space’ which includes silence on stage and time to pause.  When we do this, I think it allows audiences to tap into their intuitive and enquiring minds. It becomes a very active dynamic between actor and audience paradoxically. 

I often describe the work of ATT as merging the ‘playful and political’, because making work, ‘for, by and with’ children I think is a deliberate act of challenge to the status quo! I believe there is a joyful, childlike ‘soul’ in all of us, which society has quashed over time. I try to create work which lets adults and children tap into the playfulness within, as a shared experience. 

For children, it is about meeting them on their terms in their space. For adults, it is about giving permission for them to reconnect with the part of them which is creative and curious.

It's been a busy lockdown for you Nina - tell us about the other work you've been doing during this time

We have been running a lot of projects online (like a lot of orgs), ‘Love Letters to the Town’ was a really great project with our young writers who wrote to people they didn’t know, with messages of hope -

We also ran ‘Inside Out, Upside Down’ arts trail in Whitby Park, which was a series of visual art and audio installations over the summer for families in Ellesmere Port - another first.

We are also getting ready to start our capital build which will mean we have a fantastic, bright new theatre space in 2021. 

Coming back to Atom and Luna how does a theatre director tell stories across other platforms?

I think theatre making skills are transferable, and for young audiences, we should be exploring how other mediums can engage. I strongly want to ensure that children and YP have the opportunity to access live performance as a fundamental right, but it’s important to remember that theatre can still be inaccessible for many. 

As the world and technology changes, it seems right to keep pushing new forms, and to allow ourselves to learn new approaches. I don’t think anything will ever replace theatre or live performance - it is entirely unique and essential. We also don’t want to be doing things in a way we have always done - there is no fun or creative reward in painting by numbers.  

And finally what are you most looking forward to as The Chronicles of Atom and Luna unfurl?

Seeing how the work is received by audiences across all the various platforms BUT I am also really looking forward to getting back into the rehearsal room and bringing Atom and Luna to life on stage.

For Atom and Luna, there is also a deep sense of exploration of the idea of mother nature, and the earth which speaks to the time we are in, without it being at all, ‘educational’. That is one of the qualities I love about this work - it is gorgeously fantastical and full of magic but also very revenant and asking important questions for now.

Also, I am a visual theatre practitioner and enjoy creating the visual world of a story,. We will be working with designer, Bek Palmer to help realise the show, who is someone I have also worked with over many years. 

I am looking forward to bringing all the elements together for performance;  rich words, big themes and a delightful space for these to play out. 

The first element of The Chronicles of Atom and Luna is a series of audio tales – Tales from the Forest.   Tales from the Forest starts being released on 30 November, but you can get access now by signing up to the mailing list...