A mix of classics from both the Eastern and Western literary canon, and original plays infused with local flavour are in the running for the new Best Production for the Young award at the Life Theatre awards this year.
They include a puppetry- based Mandarin adaptation of the tales of the Monkey God in Journey West: Web Of Deceit by Paper Monkey Theatre; the cheeky and larger-than-life story of Roald Dahl's George's Marvellous Medicine by Players Theatre; and the swashbuckling tale of Treasure Island by Singapore Repertory Theatre's The Little Company.
Rounding up the five nominees are Samsui Women: One Brick At A Time - a tale set during the time of the Bukit Ho Swee fire in the 1960s - by The Finger Players and commissioned by Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay; and the Mandarin musical, The Wee Question Mark And The Adventurer - A Children's Musical by The Theatre Practice.
The award shines a spotlight on the work done in children's theatre, focusing on productions for children aged 12 and younger. They must be produced by Singapore companies. Last year, there were 26 eligible shows by 11 companies.
The award is administered by The Straits Times and organised in partnership with the National Arts Council.
Ms Grace Ng, the council's director of sector development, says: "The award acknowledges the tireless efforts of our theatre practitioners and their dedication in creating memorable artistic experiences for our children.
"Such experiences are also important in moulding lifelong support of the arts."
The award is judged separately from the rest of the Life Theatre Awards by a panel of judges.
They are independent artist educator and vice-president of the Singapore Drama Educators Association, Ms Peggy Ferroa; seasoned drama educator and assistant director for talent development and programming at the NUS Centre for the Arts, Mr Jeffrey Tan; founder and director of drama education company Act 3 Theatrics R. Chandran; and The Straits Times Life entertainment editor Andy Chen.
The judges considered three measures in their selection of the nominees: the artistic quality of the production, the level of engagement with the audience and the originality and innovation of the production.
This included looking at not only the performance and its production values, but also the educational materials accompanying the show and the post-show engagement with the audience.
The judges agreed that the five nominees scored well on these three measures.
Ms Ferroa says that despite each production being different, reflecting the ethos of the respective companies, they all took their young audiences seriously .
"I am always appreciative of the efforts put in by the theatre companies to engage young audiences, whether with a story, the use of space, props or resource packs," she says.
Mr Chandran echoes that sentiment, adding that children's theatre in Singapore is "flourishing" - and not just because more productions are being staged.
"Established companies, while maintaining their high standards, are finding new ways of telling their stories. New players are stepping in and are not afraid to adopt their own identity and styles," he says. "The nominees reflect this in the art form and language used, in the excitement and engagement they inspire."