Cahoots goes coast to coast with US tour

22nd January 2024

Belfast children’s theatre company takes ‘The University of Wonder and Imagination’ on
US tour

Northern Ireland children’s theatre company, Cahoots, has kicked off 2024 with a 22-venue tour of the United States, bringing a production it created during lockdown to life in front of sellout audiences from east coast to west.

‘The University of Wonder and Imagination’ was an award-winning production developed by Cahoots’ Artistic Director Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney when lockdown hit in 2020. The original show at the time made creative use of Zoom technology to allow performers to interact with live audiences around the world from the safety of their homes, incorporating magic, music and a bespoke theatrical experience for every performance.

This pivot into digital theatre allowed Cahoots to thrive amidst the pandemic at a time when theatres closed their doors, providing entertainment for thousands and valuable work for cast and crew, who worked fast to get to grips with new technology in their purpose built, socially distanced studio in Belfast.

Four years later, Cahoots has transformed the production into a live stage show, picked up by 22 venues across America. The tour, supported by Culture Ireland and the National Lottery through the Arts Council NI, is the second time Cahoots has performed in the US in recent months, having debuted its highly anticipated new production ‘The Vanishing Elephant’ in New York City in October 2023.

Artistic director Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney speaks about the significance of the development for Cahoots: “Bringing The University of Wonder and Imagination to audiences across the US is simply incredible for Cahoots. This experience is so far removed from how we first developed and performed the show back in 2020, when stages became screens and we, like so many arts organisations, were forced to rethink how we operated in order to survive and continue to do what we love. To see a full, live production of the show spring to life on stage and be received so well by American audiences is an absolute joy.”

Cahoots’ American tour began in early January in Florida’s Kravis Center and will wrap at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, in March. A team of four from Northern Ireland are delivering the packed schedule of performances.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our skilled team,” continues Paul Mc Eneaney. “Fresh off the back of our Broadway run in November, it is just a really exciting time for Cahoots. We have new work in the pipeline for Northern Ireland audiences this year, including The Vanishing Elephant, a production we’re particularly excited about, in October.

“International tours like this allow us to showcase the amazing creative talent Northern Ireland is home to. The stories we tell young audiences through our productions about life, wonder, hope, imagination – are global stories – and we are extremely proud that they are born in Belfast,” Paul Mc Eneaney said.

Alison McCrudden, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support Cahoots, thanks to The National Lottery Players. This critically acclaimed, award-winning company creates the most imaginative, magical and inspiring theatre for children and young people.  I am delighted to see them tour their thrilling production, The University of Wonder and Imagination, to audiences across the United States, helping to put Northern Ireland on the map for all the right reasons.  Congratulations to all involved.”

Cahoots was formed in 2001 and has been locally and internationally celebrated for its distinctive style of theatre combining magic, illusion, physical theatre and original music. Cahoots’ vision is to inspire a sense of wonder, unlock imagination and nurture a love of theatre in children and young people.