Category: Kids Theatre

Australian Shakespeare Company presents Alice in Wonderland

Colourful and whimsical, with even a touch of the impossible

By Narelle Wood

The Australian Shakespeare Company’s retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is everything you would expect it to be, colourful and whimsical, with even a touch of the impossible.

The adventure starts, as any good adventure does, by following the White Rabbit (Kathleen Douglas) into Wonderland. On her journey Alice (Ayesha Gibson) encounters many strange and wondrous creatures, including all the old favourites: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Mad Hatter (Dennis Manahan), and of course the Cheshire Cat to name but a few. Humpty Dumpty also makes an appearance, as does Absolem the caterpillar and the Duchess who has some interesting parenting tips.

There are plenty of opportunities for the younger audience members to engage with the characters and be a part of the show. The older generations need not feel left out as they also have a part to play helping to distract the awful Red Queen (Terri Brabon) from her stolen raspberry tarts. Of course, anything to do with Red Queen comes with the risk that someone might lose his or her head, but the risk is totally worth it.

The gardens at Rippon Lea Estate provide the perfect backdrop for Alice’s adventures, with plenty of space to enjoy a picnic and a special spot at the front so the smaller audience members can see. The storyline is enhanced by some very cute song and dance numbers, as well as some good humour to keep the adults entertained.

Everything about the production (directed by Glenn Elston) is great, but the costumes and puppetry are standouts. The White Rabbit’s costume is stunning, and the use of puppetry to bring Humpty Dumpty and the Cheshire Cat to life is very clever. The only thing that was really disappointing is that the cast finished their last song and went straight to photo opportunities with the children; it felt a little bit strange not to have an opportunity to acknowledge their fantastic performances with a round of applause. That being said the photo opportunity was hugely popular, the show a clear hit with the kids.

As a lover of the books, this production does not disappoint. It’s an endearing performance, and has everything one might hope for in a retelling that is appropriate for all ages. It’s a perfect way to spend a summer’s eve.

Alice in Wonderland is being performed at Rippon Lea House and Gardens until 27 January. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 8676 7511.

Photograph: Nicole Cleary

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Boyd Productions presents Alice in Wonderland

A colourful ride down the rabbit hole

By Owen James

Alice in Wonderland has been my favourite book ever since I was a child. Its timeless themes and madcap characters have lent the material to countless adaptations for more than 150 years, and this latest touring production is a faithful and colourful rendition that caters adeptly to the whimsy and adventure of children and adults alike.

As Alice ventures through Wonderland meeting assortedly chaotic characters and anarchic animals, she’s very pleased to quench her boredom from the riverbank at the top of the show. Younger children may find it hard to focus on longer scenes such as the Mad Tea Party or the trial of the Jack of Hearts, but overall this 60-minute production moves at a rate of knots, to keep every child engaged and entertained.

Adaptor and director Penny Farrow has ensured that despite the complex linguistic treats inherent in Lewis Carroll’s original text, her production delivers a world easily understood by children through larger than life caricatures and clear, comedic movement. Farrow relies greatly on the audience’s imagination to show Alice’s transformations when she grows and shrinks, and as ensemble members transform into doors, playing cards and wind, her very clever direction proves how little you need to tell a story.

Costumes by Diana Eden, Louisa Bannah and Gayle MacGregor are rich in colour and elaborate in design and detail. Kids especially loved the Caterpillar (Anthony Craig) and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee (Sarah Whalen and Justine Anderson), as well as the expertly realised puppets by Dieter Barry Creations.

Georgina Walker leads the cast as audacious Alice, bringing smiles to small faces throughout the audience from the moment she first steps onto stage. Every member of this eight-person ensemble plays their part with joy and boundless energy – children are mesmerised.

Alice in Wonderland is fantastic school holiday entertainment filled with colour, gorgeous music and costumes, enchanting puppetry and extraordinary storytelling, all of which will delight children of all ages.

Alice in Wonderland was performed 10 – 12 January at Melbourne’s Athnaeum Theatre before touring to Frankston, Bendigo, and Perth. See here for more information about dates and tickets.  

Review: Wolfgang

Circus meets Mozart in a cheeky blend of classical and popular forms

By Lois Maskiell

Acclaimed Australian contemporary circus company, Circa, flip high and low art in their spirited and lively children’s show, Wolfgang. Titled after none other than the enduring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself, the production offers little ones an energetic and hilarious foray into classical music, complete with a live accordion, virtuosic acrobatics and even fart jokes.

Sparks begin when acrobat (Kathryn O’Keeffe) enjoys a solitary birthday moment while she spins a Mozart record on a nearby turntable. In instants, Mozart (Paul O’Keeffe) and a clownish accordion player appear from a refrigerator door and the mayhem quickly escalates.

The next hour features a series of wild and whirling segments in which Mozart and the acrobat enter into a series of duet like routines. From first-rate tumbling to perfectly poised hand balancing, the performers showcase their astonishing skills. Children are heard gurgling and whooping throughout the theatre as amusing stunts – which at times only feature a music stand or moving spotlight – raise the roof with laughter.

Mozart’s character is performed with an overflowing exuberance that’s at once infectious and energising to witness. Towards the beginning his acrobatic companion is given a brief window to showcase her own talent and strength, though her brilliance is mostly overshadowed by the capricious genius of Mozart. Mozart embraces the limelight in his outlandish cycling routine: he jumps around, shifting positions as he dresses from underpants into an extravagant gentleman’s coat.

Circa delivers yet again with Wolfgang. By blending classical and popular forms, they continue in the same vein as their previous work like the circus-opera Il Ritorno, or their more recent interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Director Yaron Lifschitz takes Mozart’s elegant music and injects within it a certain joy and playfulness which teases traditions all the while reminding us to enjoy art wherever it’s found.

Wolfgang is being performed 2 – 12 January at Arts Centre Melbourne with a relaxed performance taking place 9 January. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.

Photograph: supplied

Review: George’s Marvellous Medicine

Mischief and laughter abound in adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic

By Rebecca Waese 

Following a sold-out season at the Sydney Opera House, shake and stir theatre co has served up a winner at Arts Centre Melbourne with their fresh and fabulous theatrical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine. Gross, engrossing and deliciously wrong, this theatrical adaptation is directed by Ross Balbuziente who is not afraid of a good running fart gag or a Roald Dahl classic novel with the dubious message of eliminating an evil adult who makes life miserable for a child. This show is great fun for kids and great all round.

In a cast of standouts, Nick Skubij plays the mischievous eight-year-old George who creates medicine for his horrible Grandma that will hopefully make her easier to bear. With naughty glee and a complete disregard for health and safety, George concocts an elixir that makes Grandma grow to epic proportions. George’s parents, the excitable Mr. Kranky (Tim Dashwood) and Mrs. Kranky (Nelle Lee) – a designer-loving wife in a cow-hide skirt – add cartoonish flair to the stage and Johnny Balbuziente who plays Nugget the chicken uses physical comedy to the hilt with the latest in chicken talk and puppetry. Grandma (Leon Cain) is a terrific performer with sharp comedic timing and doesn’t shy away from engaging in contemporary references that take this Dahl tale right up to the minute.

Lighting designer Jason Glenwright and sound designer Guy Webster add to the winning recipe of magical wizardry with storms, bubbling brews, and humorous sound effects. The overall design of the set, with moveable sliding panels for rooms, crooked shelves and pop-up surprise doors, all decked out in a 1970s brown and yellow floral frenzy, adds to the imaginative flavour and had me exclaiming in wonder as George dared to mix a brew that sent Grandma and the chicken through the roof.

There were more than a few public service announcements warning kids, “Do not try this at home!” but, I must say, in these overly safe and parent-patrolled times, this theatrical adventure of “what if” was even more delicious for its shocking mischief and sheer delight in how far naughty George could go on a humdrum Saturday afternoon. The hour sped by in a blur and the show left the audience wide-eyed and cackling with incredulous laughter.

Though you may not want to see it with your Grandma, this show sends you back to what it feels like to be a curious kid with an aptitude for mischief. It’s terrific entertainment and bucket-loads of fun. Come early and make a crazy chicken or some farm creature crafts at the Kranky Farm before the show. Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine has got the right recipe for family theatre that leaves you wanting more.

Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine is being performed 25 – 29 September at Arts Centre Melbourne with an Auslan interpreted performance and relaxed performance. See here for more information and tickets.

Rebecca Waese is an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University in the Department of Creative Arts and English.

Photograph: Dylan Evans

 

StageArt Presents Garfield: A Musical With Catitude

Garfield roars, or rather sarcastically purrs, onto the Chapel stage to delight children and adults alike.

By Owen James

Garfield: A Musical With Catitude sees the titular feline leave his safe surroundings at home with owner Jon and go exploring for his “fantastic birthday” in alleys and daydreams. Accompanied by animal friends Odie, Arlene and Nermel, together they contemplate life as pets, and avoid animal control in the scary outside world. Garfield is StageArt’s first school holiday show produced for children and does not disappoint.

Director Luigi Lucente has milked the child-friendly book by Michael J. Bobbitt and Jim Davis for all it’s worth, creating a colourful palate of lively characters that make children squeal and adults smile. You can’t help but grin and giggle in this delightful world.

Musical Director Caleb Garfinkel has made the most of the zany music by John L. Cornelius II. With beautifully executed harmonies peppered throughout, this ensemble of five brought this simple but charming score to theatrical life.

Madison Lee’s choreography is highly energetic and rarely leaves characters a moment to breathe. Children will delight in enthusiastic and playful movement that keeps the imagination of young audience members active.

With his sour attitude leaping out of the comic strip and onto stage, Lachlan Graham’s Garfield has ten times the energy of any cat I’ve ever met. Graham’s expert grasp on physical comedy induced frequent laughter, and his genuine enthusiasm for the role and for theatre for youth shines in his performance.

Garfield’s friends Arlene (Grace Browne), Nermel (Laura Greenhalgh) and Odie (Callum Warrender) deliver highly polished performances with beautifully clear caricatures that engage even the youngest attendee. Never once dropping gusto or focus, these characters dance and sing their way through Garfield’s pessimism, reminding us to look for the silver lining in every situation. Warrender as Odie was a special fan favourite, with his lines including “woof” and “bark” inducing many squeals and smiles.

Garfield is a treat. Adults will love the scattered pop culture references, kids’ faces will light up at the animated onstage antics, and “I Hate Mondays” will stay in your head for the rest of the day. With a running time of only 60 minutes and ticket prices as low as a movie ticket and small popcorn, Garfield makes purrfect school holiday entertainment.

Garfield: A Musical With Catitude plays at Chapel Off Chapel until 13 April.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 8290 7000.

Melbourne Fringe 2017: TRASH TEST DUMMIES

Fresh and funny school holiday entertainment

By Rebecca Waese

They sure make a mess but the Trash Test Dummies clean up with extraordinary acrobatic, goofball, bellyaching fun. As my daughter and I entered the Emerald City this Fringe Festival, the trio had already begun with gentle slapstick antics to clean up the rubbish and get imaginations rolling. It was a terrifically entertaining blend of physical comedy, clowning, and interactive fun for the whole family.

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Dummies Thomas McDonald, Isaac Salter and Leigh Rhodes – fit and farcical with endearing circus personalities – have more adventures than you could imagine with wheelie bins that turn into giant trucks, jack-in-the-boxes, chariots of fire, and teetering towers of gravity-defying human versus bin-balancing stunts. Soundtracks add to the hilarity when the trio carries us into the worlds of Batman, The Lion King, an awkward ballet from Swan Lake and a terrific Great Escape scene.

The Dummies got down and dirty with the audience, crawling over our seats, pelting us with soft balls, tissues, fake flowers and lots of clowning chaos, inviting kids to throw everything back at them and be a part of the action. The flavor of the show suited adults too with some references that were clever and topical.

The hat and pin-juggling scenes were top-notch and the Dummies, while near-perfect, were even fun when they missed the occasional toss and did push-ups for punishment. The slow-motion collisions and frenzied ‘pass the bomb’ bit kept us riveted.

While you’d best not hire these guys for a regular rubbish gig, you’d be lucky to catch them at the Fringe for an hilarious hour of interactive circus silliness and physical comedy. Selling out overseas at the Edinburgh Festival and winning best children’s show at Adelaide Fringe in 2015 and 2016, the Trash Test Dummies will leave you smiling. Kids were so enthralled by the Dummies, they cleaned up the stage for them and jockeyed for high fives after the show. Highly recommended, Trash Test Dummies is a great choice for school holiday Fringe festival fun.

Venue: Emerald City – The Gingerbread House

Dates: Sept 25-30, 2 pm

Tickets: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/trash-test-dummies/

Rebecca Waese is an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University in the Department of Creative Arts and English

CoisCéim Dance Theatre Presents THE WOLF AND PETER

Winning fans of all ages

By Zachariah (Age 9)

“The story was about a boy named Peter who wanted to discover the meadow and on his time when he was exploring he came across a wolf and he ran away and the wolf was really good at break-dancing.

My favourite character was the person who played the piano because his hair was really crazy and cool. The dancing made me feel energetic.

I liked it because it was really funny and… I can’t explain it, but I just love it. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

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By Tania Herbert (Aged more than 9)

Brought to Melbourne by Ireland’s CoicCéim Dane Theatre, The Wolf and Peter by David Bolger is a contemporary re-imagining of the classic Prokofiev children’s symphony, Peter and the Wolf. Set in a stylised forest, it’s a surrealist journey into Peter’s little world with lots of modern twists to tell the story in a meaningful way for today’s modern tech kids.

As Peter (played by a woman – Ivonne Kalter – in classic pantomime style) journeys into the forest, he comes face to face with his own fears and fantasies, played out through contemporary dance, from jazz to breakdance.

The music is lead by an onstage piano – which itself plays a central character, with jokes from both pianist (composer Conor Linehan) and piano bringing a lovely integration between the dancers and the music. The stylised animal characters (Lance Coburn, Jonathan Mitchell, Emma O’Kane, Mateusz Szckerek and Matthew Williamson) make sure kids were able to give their imaginations a great workout, and the shift from animals being represented by musical instruments to the animals being defined by their dance style was a clever catch.

While the show is touted as being for 6+, the audience had kids from toddlers to tweens, and the simplicity of the physical comedy yet the complexity of the dancing meant there was something to please all ages – adults included.

Kids in the audience were spellbound, even through the later parts of the show which was largely emotive contemporary dancing as Peter wrestled with the consequences of his actions and his feelings of conflict about the well-being of the wolf (Szckerek).

The Wolf and Peter is a great piece of kids’ entertainment, but also held a lovely and humanising message that we all value the same things – fun, family and freedom.

By Livi (Age 5)

“I went to the theatre and I saw The Wolf and Peter.

My favourite was Peter because he was hiding from the wolf. They did handstands and cartwheels (which I can do) and I loved the head stands.”

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CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s The Wolf and Peter was performed on 1 & 2 July at Arts Centre Melbourne.

http://coisceim.com/