Children’s Theatre

MOTHER GOOSE IN THE WOODS @ KING STREET THEATRE, NEWTOWN

MOTHER GOOSE IN THE WOODS 67

MOTHER GOOSE IN THE WOODS 70
Production Photography by Thomas Adams

You have been patiently waiting all year, and finally it is time for the entire family to see a great big panto.

EMU Productions presents MOTHER GOOSE IN THE WOODS as the latest Australian pantomime offering at King Street Theatre in Newtown.

This show is an Australian premiere written and directed by Maria de Marco with musical direction by Peter Novakovich.

De Marco’s show easily manages to avoid most of the age-old puns, and brings something new for your young children to see this Christmas Season. The refreshing news is that this MOTHER GOOSE is a very clever Christmas pantomime with a few unexpected twists and is suitable for all ages. Continue reading MOTHER GOOSE IN THE WOODS @ KING STREET THEATRE, NEWTOWN

Dural Musical Society Presents Snow White And The Seven Dwarves

When you’re a teacher, child noise is like those many Inuit words for ‘snow’. Instinctively, there is recognition of the massive scale of nuanced meaning to the noise. For any theatre person, reacting to audiences is the same discriminatory process. This afternoon I spent a wonderful three hours in the most delightful manifestation of audience and child response. Pure enjoyment.

Dural Musical Society’s (DMS) SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES is simply delightful. For me, the parents and grandparents around me and especially for the little ones, it was the best of what community theatre can be. Energetic, well-rehearsed, happy … and friendly from the moment you meet the Box Office staff on the way in. The ushers could give the big city venues a lesson in how to help patrons. Their compassion and helpful attitude for parents with strollers, the elderly and excitable fairy princesses gives that rare, elusive atmosphere of being in a community that cares.

The show is put together with enjoyment and excitement in mind. It’s the traditional story with added pantomime flair. Queen Caligula (the adults got that bit) is threatened by the beauty of Snow White (all the little girls in the audience got that) and so dispatches her two henchmen to dispatch her rival. Dirty work afoot in the forest. Our heroine is saved by the Dwarves, then by the Prince … twice. Actually it might have been a Fairy-in-training (Chelsea Widdicombe) trying to earn her wings under the mentor-ship of an older, wiser fairy (Judy Clarke) who saved her the second time.

Snow White (Natasha Markham) is pretty and smiley and loving and gets a gasp from the crowd when she first appears. She is loved from afar by Danny Dumpling, the castle roustabout (Laith Tucci) who is handsome and engaging. In true panto style, the Prince is played by an ingénue, Josephine Pawlicka, who is charming in that princely way. In fact all the Ensemble players are present, prepared and with huge smiles and obvious relish in their performances.

As the incompetent murderers, Brian Chapman and Max Hearn-Sarchfield) do so much with their roles. They are more spoken at than speaking but they grimace and twist with a lovely rapport and strong physicality. The other damned good baddie is Adam Garden as Black Wing who plays the wise cracking sidekick with an open stance and strong voice.

Danny’s Mother is Dame Dolly Dumpling and here’s where the panto really kicks in. She is a stately ship in uncharted waters barely avoiding the rocks and played by Eddie Bruce she steers the story home. And he obviously has a rollicking good time. The Pantomime Dame is a powerful stereotype and the tradition is rich. Bruce is still settling into that role I think, but his broad characterisation, witty responses to the crowd and ability to improvise are a delight to watch and judiciously directed to not slip into ham. It’s nice for me to see a lost art treated with the irreverence it deserves!

And the crowd gets involved all right. Cries of “He’s behind you” and “Don’t open the door” are chorused from the crowd. Me and the other oldies included. But the biggest audience noise is for Lisa Musgrave as the evil Queen. We are given permission, yea encouragement, to boo. And we do as Mulgrave hilariously encourages the sentiment. Her performance is wonderful in an ensemble of great work. She is often still, just using her facial expression to convey a gamut of emotions from contempt to bewilderment with just a comic eyebrow arch or droll head tilt.

There is so much to enjoy in this show. The costumes (Jenny O’Neil/Costume Corner) range from regal to funny and seem easy to work in. They often get a ooohs when revealed and the animals are a highlight. The skilled band of six musicians under the tight direction of Musical Director Kate Gandy is not too loud or intrusive and creates a nice ambience before the show. The set is clever and will get easier to use as the season progresses. Some of the changes in the second half were a bit clunky and long and I would have appreciated some more upbeat or peppy music as a cover. Mind you all the kids had hit the candy bar pretty hard by then and were a tough crowd until they settled.

Co-directors Julian Floriano and Laura Murdocca know their audience and have made some clever decisions to be sure to keep the kids attention. Not too many songs, kids get restless. Dances (choreographed by Stephanie Quaglia) that the little ones can imitate in the aisles, even a baby mosh pit towards the end. Lots of breaking the fourth wall and audience interaction.

And crucially, their choice to showcase the younger members of the DMS family. The children who are the Seven Dwarves are certainly one of the strong reasons to support this highly enjoyable production. There are 2 teams who are sharing the roles and it is impossible to watch them without a big grin.

Like these junior actors, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES is lots of fun in a small neat production.

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES by Dural Musical Society continues at the Dural Soldiers Memorial Hall, old Northern Road, Dural until Satuday 31 October, playing Fridays to Sundays. Performance times Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and Sundays at 4pm. For bookings and more information visit http://www.duralmusicsociety.org.

Prehistoric Aquarium @ Carriageworks

Erth_Prehisoric Aquarium.Kronosaur + kids

Erth and their puppets are back! Having been several times to visit Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo, we were looking forward to the latest incarnation.

Our host Drew- casually interacts with his audience as they settle. The target group, the younger audience, are encouraged to sit on the carpet area at the front before a ‘live’ giant screen that takes us into the prehistoric aquarium world.

Drew disarms and makes new friends. He is brightly coloured and his demeanour of the informal is also linked to his lack of real knowledge. Then as the show begins he is interrupted by Catherine the resident marine biologist to secure the facts. This attempt at layering the information is quite effective. Continue reading Prehistoric Aquarium @ Carriageworks

The 52-Storey Treehouse @ Sydney Opera House

Drew Livingston as terry Johnny Nasser as Edward Puppethands and James Elliot as Andy
Drew Livingston as Terry, Johnny Nasser as Edward Puppethands, and James Elliot as Andy. Production photography by Branco Gaica

This is the ultimate kids’ theatre and enlivened even more by the theatre bringing to life Andy and Terry’s ‘Storey’ books.

The audience  is a mix of fans, those between-age (mostly boys like my son) who read or have read the books, and then there is a younger brood (whose parents in tow enjoy the targeted jokes). These younger crew are spellbound by the physical stage action, songs and characters.

Such characters who might not exist outside the darkened realm, are cleverly revealed in multiple role playing of the versatile four person cast. They expertly justify each need to change and be changed that the audience goes with each transition without a blink. Of course the disguising machine “Diguise-a-tron-5000” can make so much more of transformational acting of the minimal cast, and adds an element of fun with Jill appearing yet Terry’s voice being heard to her lip synch.

Richard Tulloch (adaptor), himself once a teacher, really ‘gets’ writing for this young audience (and their parents). He has adapted the latest book well and filled the stage with effective puppetry and catchy songs and all the obligatory content of the books for context. There’s stupid Terry, Andy on his birthday, Jill and her expertise and another fellow who is all things in between including Mr Big Nose.

Tulloch layers the piece with significant important green messages appropriate to a Theatre -in-Education genre that he has traditionally written for. The hungry caterpillar eats all in his way- including the flying fried egg car but all for a purpose on its way to cocooning chrysalis and its metamorphosis into the magnificent butterfly.

Jill is ever present as the expert and most knowledgeable clear thinking device. The standard young people’s dilemma’s remain, a sleeping beauty might be awoken with a kiss – Terry is degusted and Andy ‘coolly’ offers to do the deed – the readers of the books understand his ‘crush’ on Jill (my son whispers this to me as we witness ‘the kiss’).

My boy loved it, he loved knowing the narrative and the characters and enjoyed the telling, including the fun and adventure.

My daughter is a little younger and hasn’t read the books, though she’s seen the earlier live on stage ‘storeys’. When I asked her about the best bit, she loved the junior humour- “when they tested for his fingerprint (fingerprint recognition) and it didn’t work, and his face didn’t work, but the machine knew them both by their farts”. She got right into the pantomime fun with a chase sequence through the audience to her delight.

At an hour this is precisely the length and depth of content for a range of younger viewers. The books themselves take considerably longer to read with manifest young person indulgences along the way. But with this performance we never got lost across the changes is time and space and were enticed and intrigued throughout. What more could we ask for?!

THE 52-STOREY TREEHOUSE is playing the Playhouse at the Sydney Opera House until Sunday 4th October.

THE TEAM 

CREATIVES
A play by Richard Tulloch
Adapted from the book by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton
Artistic Director: Julian Louis
Director: Liesel Badorrek
Set / Costume Designer: Mark Thompson
Lighting Designer: Nicholas Higgins
Sound Designer: Ross Johnston

CAST
James Elliot
Sophie Kesteven
Drew Livingston
Johnny Nasser

CREW
Production Manager: PJ Gahan
Company Stage Manager: Sharna Galvin
Production Technician / Assistant Stage Manager: Jeremy Page
Assistant Stage Manager / Audio: Olivia Benson