Friday, 9 January 2009

Walking Whale Circus , Jan 8, 2009 ***

Walking Whale Circus  
By National Institute of Circus Arts & Melbourne Museum
Melbourne Museum, daily, Jan 1 to Feb 1, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

For the third year, Melbourne Museum is presenting an educational circus show for children. The last two years explored bugs and bees. This year The Walking Whale Circus, a 30-minute show directed by Matt Wilson, charts the evolution of creatures from ocean dwelling fish and mammals to land dwelling lizards and then to birds of the air.

It is likely that the very young children in the audience cannot follow the long and wordy introductory and some of the explanatory details but they enjoy the acrobatic antics that follow. The four performers, students of the National Institute of Circus Arts, sport vivid and eye-catching costumes (by Amanda Fairbanks) representing a whale (Caroline Walsh), a fish (Jessica Ward), a bird, (Heather Garlan) and a lizard (Karl Stock).

Caroline Walsh’s whale walks and talks and finally learns to swim with the help of the children. Her character is Master of Ceremonies, introducing the other characters, communicating with the audience and providing the educational information and explanation of the evolution of life forms from sea to land and air.

The story our chatty whale tells begins 400 million years ago with a Fluttering Fish, portrayed by Jessica Ward who performs elegant and fluid handstands and contortions while balancing on three short, metal poles.

20 million years pass and the audience, lead by our whale, teaches the fish to crawl. She transforms into a Leaping Lizard, played by Karl Stock in a striking, orange lizard costume. Stock demonstrates some exceptional acrobatic feats while wearing short, sprung, stilt boots that allow him to bound like a kangaroo – or a Leaping Lizard.

Finally, the lizard transforms into a multi-coloured Bird, played by the vivacious Heather Garlan, who dances and flies like an exotic bird on a static trapeze.

The performers sing, (some a little half-heartedly) a song about evolution. “Everything around us is evolving and revolving, changing, re-arranging all the time.” Unfortunately it is not a song that the children can participate in but they enjoy the intermittent opportunity to flap their wings or crawl like a lizard.

The characters and narrative need development in this show written by Anthony Crowley, but the physical spectacle keeps the littlies engaged and teaches them a little about evolution in this 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.

By Kate Herbert

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