Faces of the Captives: Aesthetic Distance and Emotional Absorption in Young Children's Engagement with Theatre
When Captain Hook has the lost boys tied up on his ship he cannot recognise that the sparkle on the ‘faces of the captives’ is the thrill of mimesis. It has been suggested that if young children cannot distinguish between reality and illusion then instead of suspending disbelief in the stage world, they will actually believe and therefore experience a dangerous level of emotional absorption. Using Peter Pan as a frame of reference, this thesis examines responses to three contemporary theatre works, Capital E National Theatre for Children’s Songs of the Sea and Boxes and Scottish company Catherine Wheels’ White to challenge the idea that aesthetic distance provides a necessary protective function. Instead, it will be argued that the imagination, empathy and emotion contagion provide the conditions in which children can capably enter the aesthetic space of fictional worlds on stage.