Friday, 1 July 2016

The Snail and the Whale, June 29, 2016 ****

Adapted from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, produced by Tall Stories 
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until July 10, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **** 
Review also in print in Herald Sun on Fri July 1, 2016 (TBC). KH
  Patrick Bridgman as Dad with UK cast members
 Childish shrieks of delight and gleeful singing provide a constant vocal accompaniment to The Snail and the Whale, a stage adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s award-winning, children’s picture book.

“A good story can take you all around the world,” says the child (Amy Tobias) who is called only Little One by her doting father (Patrick Bridgman), a sea-captain and an inventive storyteller who, at bedtime, indulges his daughter’s penchant for fantastic adventures on the sea.

Her favourite story is about a tiny snail, also played by Tobias, who wants to go to sea and finds a willing host in a great, grey-blue, humpback Whale (Bridgman) on whose back she sails the oceans until the Whale beaches himself on a far-flung shore and she must rescue him.

Director, Toby Mitchell, incorporates audience participation, sing-alongs, gestural games and even adding and subtracting into this energetic, family show.

The enthusiastic audience of mostly three- to five-year olds, shout, “Behind you!” in the best panto tradition, squeal warnings of shark attacks and even hide Little One from her Dad in the opening minutes so she can avoid going to bed.

Pre-schoolers laugh at unpredictable things and, in this show, they hoot at Dad blurting ‘raspberries’, flapping penguins and the mention of naked bottoms, but the biggest squeals of delight are in response to the giant water pistols. Warning adults! Duck for cover after the Whale is marooned.

   Patrick Bridgman as Dad with UK cast members
Bridgman’s gently clownish antics entertain the kids ceaselessly and his warm, loving and spirited Dad is delightful and, we hope, familiar to many children.

Tobias is vivacious and engaging as his daughter and she is so petite that children and adults alike may be fooled into thinking she is much younger than her years.

Violinist, Catriona Stirling, narrates the story as the adult version of Little One who reminisces about her Dad’s inspiring stories and also accompanies the production with sprightly folksy tunes (Richard Heacock).

Isla Shaw’s quirky, flexible set represents the child’s bedroom and features an oversized porthole window surrounded by movable benches and shelves that double as building blocks to create rocks, boats, oceans and the Whale himself.

Mitchell’s UK theatre company, Tall Stories, is also responsible for dynamic theatrical productions of Donaldson and Scheffler’s other favourite books (The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Room on the Broom).

The Snail and the Whale is yet another UK, international touring, school holiday hit at the Arts Centre and we can only hope for more Australian children’s shows to achieve such success.

By Kate Herbert

No comments:

Post a Comment