Monkey Baa Theatre Company was established in 1997 by its Creative Directors, Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry.Their first tour was an adaptation of Tim Winton’s ‘The Bugalugs Bum Thief’.In 2017, at the Sydney Theatre Awards, they won a Special Award for 20 years of Outstanding Achievement.
Monkey Baa, the award-winning theatre company for young people, is proud to present the world premiere of Josephine Wants to Dance, a new Australian play based on the celebrated picture book by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley.
Adapted for the stage by Monkey Baa’s Creative Directors Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry, this landmark Australian production brings to life the iconic children’s book, set in Shaggy Gully, with stunning costume and set design, a hilarious original musical score and talented local cast. Continue reading Josephine Wants to Dance: World Premiere at Monkey Baa→
THE UNKOWN SOLDIER is a beautiful play contributing to this year’s mixture of emotions and learning related to the Great War. Its essential beauty lies in an intricate, tight weaving of relevancies between present day Australia and a French battlefield in 1916. It articulates stories from past and present with an honest juxtaposition of physical and emotional conflicts.
The play is written by Sandra Eldridge, one of Monkey Baa’s Creative Directors. She also gives a commanding performance as Aunt Angela, whose mountains escape is invaded by the defensive, emotionally injured thirteen year old Charlie. In the flashback scenes she quickly changes to Grace, a WW1 nurse in search of her son.
Eldridge is joined on stage by Felix Johnson, who plays her teenage nephew and also an optimistic 1916 teenage soldier in flashback sequences. The chemistry between the anti-war Aunt Angela and Charlie with a father just home from conflict is fiery, without apparent peaceful resolution. Together they discover a dusty port which becomes a portal to war affected lives of times past. It is also a foil for their own family’s post-war struggles.
Over cuppas of varying success, the volatile pair gradually discover unknown details about the Great War. The play has noise, graphic description, and evocative stage effects when the space becomes a tense battlefield in a few split seconds. Letter reading also quickly ignites into full action rather than remaining static.
Also carefully handled at an offstage distance is the topic of Charlie’s father coping with his return from the war in Afghanistan. An introduction to his post-traumatic stress disorder is clearly offered here. Felix Johnson’s portrayal of a teenager with a broken father is heartbreaking and real.
Johnson’s young soldier Albert has a wide-eyed early twentieth-century persona. The battle scenes show chilling, sharp instances of full-bodied fear. His flips back to a definitive modern teenager show impressive range.
Both actors are directed to use the stage well through the continual shifts between their changed worlds and quartet of characters. The play’s momentum is not delayed by the constant shifts in character and time. Sandra Eldridge shines as Aunt Angela. Her deft progression to the more conventional nurse in WW1 includes comprehensive movements in accent, pose and vulnerability.
The design of props and stage set is highly evocative and successful. Anna Gardiner’s set split between a modern home and battle-torn Europe works well for the various exits and entries. The layering of letter texts on surfaces textures highlights the emotional communications within the layers of the entire play.
THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER never preaches about sacrifice, nor does it glorify war as a solution. There are thought-provoking comments on those you leave behind when in battle and what you are defending. It shows us the results of people fighting for their country whilst being loved by their family.
This touching 2015 event has a nice salute to Anzac Day services, with more than the one famous stanza from Lawrence Binyon’s poem, ‘For the Fallen’ being recited by Aunt Angela and Charlie.
THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER is a beautifully executed sharing of war and family experiences both past and present. It is a worthwhile anniversary addition to the theatrical canon in this topic area. The play runs in Sydney at the Lend Lease Darling Quarter Theatre from 18-22 May before touring regional centres.
What has 88 keys and no lock? (Answer: a piano ). The packed audience was wildly enthusiastic and loved this joke.
Perfect school holiday fare the current show at wonderful Monkey Baa is SIMON TEDESCHI: PIANIST AND PRANKSTER, is a solo autobiographical show pitched at Primary school age children, mostly about his childhood. Directed by Eva Di Cesare. Tedeschi’ s exuberant personality and love of music come enchantingly across and are infectious . We see quite a few photos of the young Simon growing up .He has a very mobile and expressive face and makes the show Fun. His inspiring approach really draws the audience in. Continue reading Simon Tedeschi: Pianist and Pranskter→
Petting zoos be blowed! Sydney kids will be more the ants’ pants after this encounter with sheep, dogs and shearers, courtesy of Monkey Baa (Baa, Baa..) This theatre event is high on production value, performance skill and chockers with creative success.
The rural Aussie tale of a shearer turned animal salon owner comes from the book by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley. It entertains in its slick new format as a new local musical jam-packed with current references. Much laughter and applause are fleeced from both the target age group and beyond.