PERHAPS it has something to do with her height - she is just over five feet tall - or her angelic face and voice, but there is a child-like quality about Olivia Yan Wing-pui. And it is quite fitting as the 33-year-old drama graduate is one of the best-loved actors in local children's theatre. Though you may not recognise her name immediately, some of you may have seen her performing on stage. Over the past two years, the co-founder and artistic director of Theatre Ensemble has played a furry bear cub in Hugga Hugga Teddy Bear; a clever but mischievous boy in Oops! Belle The Witch Is Gone!; and most recently appeared as Superboy in Aiyah! Superboy. All of the shows went down well with young audiences and further boosted the theatre company's popularity among both parents and children. So it may come as a bit of a surprise that Yan has not always been involved in children's theatre. When Yan and fellow actor and Academy for Performing Arts graduate Jim Chim Shui-man set up Theatre Ensemble in 1993, the duo were primarily staging productions for adults. But the group reached a turning point two years ago when it decided to change its direction a little and produce Oops! Belle The Witch Is Gone!. The pantomime-like show became an instant box-office hit. 'That did come as a big surprise,' recalls the award-winning Yan. 'I think a story about an imaginary world is very appealing. Also, if a production is good, it will sell. 'Our success also showed that there was, and is, a demand for children's theatre.' But why have there been so few stage shows for youngsters in Hong Kong? Yan believes that while 'theatre culture' has yet to catch on among locals, more and more young people are now interested in drama. 'That is because theatre is gradually being introduced into the school curriculum,' she says. The actress adds there has always been a misconception that children's theatre is only for children - easy to stage but not to be taken seriously. 'People can't compare children productions with, say, a melodrama because you are not comparing like with like,' Yan explains. 'They are two different theatrical disciplines. If we lower the level or production values of children shows, they just wouldn't work. 'Actually, a good stage production for children is a lot harder to produce. It involves having a vision and good craftsmanship. It isn't just about singing and dancing.' Despite there being a growing market for children's theatre, Yan says that artists should respond to the demand for the love of it and not for the money. Other than staging public performances, Theatre Ensemble is also busy running drama workshops in schools and local communities. Last year, for instance, the group were the artists-in-residence at Diocesan Girls' School. 'That programme was very successful,' Yan says. 'Through the series of workshops and presentations, students expressed how they viewed trends, food and other issues that affected their daily lives.' Unfortunately, these types of projects do take up a lot of time and Yan says her work in the future will be more focused on theatre productions. She is now preparing for the staging of the re-run of Hugga Hugga Teddy Bear this Christmas. 'There are actually quite a lot of people involved in Theatre-In-Education now,' the stage actress says. 'We simply don't have the time to create and do workshops at the same time. 'But I hope those who are bringing theatre into classrooms are not doing it because there is a market for it. They should truly feel they have a mission to introduce the art to young people instead of just thinking about money.'