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By Kallo Collective
Directed by Thomas Monckton
Produced by Show Pony
7 March 10 am & 11.30am
A tale of two puppeteers’ failed attempts at beautification.
In the magical world of flitting butterflies, jumping eggs and giant swaying flowers, two lycra-clad puppeteers try their hardest to remain unseen and at service to their puppets: two enormous plump caterpillars.
Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, with nothing but their wits to cover up their escalating blunders, two appealingly hopeless clown puppeteers bring upbeat absurdity, slapstick silliness, and a good dose of reality to their hilarious and unpredictable antics.
|WORDLESS INGENUITY AND FUN|
Reviewed by John Smythe, 7 Mar 2015
How better to represent the lifecycle of the butterfly than with a couple of clowns? Not your red-nosed, face-painted, fright-wigged, baggy costumed, floppy shod circus clowns (no fear of Coulrophobia here).
Victoria Abbott and Thomas Thomas LaHood, working with their director, the incomparable Thomas Monckton, bring a wonderfully subtle clowning sensibility to Caterpillars. Children instantly relate to it and adults love it just as much.
Clad in hooded black lycra like ninja puppeteers, they get their first laughs from discovering the audience (a classic gag) and from their subsequent attempts to pretend we can’t see them while they complete their preparations. When they are ‘on’ they are ‘on’ in grand style, presenting for our education and delectation a beautifully drawn lifecycle picture (except the leaf needs more prominent white spots – i.e. eggs – on it, to links with what happens later).
Initially it’s Abbott who more-or-less has her act together while LaHood stuffs up – and thoroughly enjoys the discoveries he makes in the process. Later the tables are turned. The audience is delighted when a ‘mistake’ morphs into a routine.
Colour soon festoons the bare stage in the shape of flowers, wafting in a fan-forced breeze that whips up a storm. Are flowers part of the lifecycle? Well what else will a hungry caterpillar eat? But first we get the eggs: an amusingly competitive sequence of bigger and better ones that soon sees the actors encased.
The emergence of a green caterpillar is truly magical and Abbott imbues it with a wonderfully endearing personality. Her devouring of the egg skin is wonderfully done and her red tongue is as delicious as what it licks. It’s amazing how much feeling can be conveyed from within a heavily padded concertinaed tube.
The taller orange caterpillar (LaHood) is a ravenously single-minded slinky whose gyrations and contortions defy logic. Together they complement and counterpoint each other, behaving just as siblings or cousins might.
Originating from the Kallo Collective’s base in Finland (they also operate in France, as well as NZ), the costumes by Rauko and the props are superbly conceived and constructed.
There is more ingenuity in manifesting the seasons – with a simple device that a boy behind me declares has produced his favourite bit. And so to the cocoon stage – achieved, one may cryptically quip, with intent. It’s their journey more than their inevitable destiny that animates Caterpillars‘ fifty-odd minutes of wordless fun.
While two show today have been their only public performances, Caterpillars will play for schools audiences as part of the Capital Arts Festival Junior Week from 9-13 March. We have to hope there will be more chances for the general public to see it in future.
[In the interests of full disclosure, Thomas LaHood is my nephew. He has recently refreshed my understanding and personal practice of clowning principles.]
Physical, Theatre, Puppetry, Clown
Operator and Stage Manager: Bridget Carpenter
Beards! Beards! Beards!
By Trick of the Light Theatre
Directed by Hannah Smith
Written by Ralph McCubbin Howell
Produced by Show Pony
21 March 10am & 1pm
Beatrix didn’t want a tiara. Beatrix wanted a BEARD!
From Charles Darwin to Abraham Lincoln, Karl Marx to Mr Twit, it is said the secret to power and greatness is all in the size and shape of the beard.
This is a tale of one young girl’s increasingly inventive efforts to grow the world’s most magnificent beard. Join a madcap and hilarious musical romp of physical comedy and clowning, as our plucky young heroine shakes up social rules and attempts to answer the questions that have puzzled mankind since the dawn of the beard. Suitable for children 5+.
|DYNAMIC EXPLORATION OF HISTORY AND GENDER ISSUES|
Reviewed by John Smythe, 16 Mar 2015
Some centuries ago, according to legend, a teenaged Portuguese noblewoman named Wilgefortis foiled her father’s plan to marry her off to a pagan king by taking a vow of virginity and praying to be made repulsive, whereupon she sprouted a beard. It worked insomuch as the king broke off the engagement but then her enraged father had her crucified.
Cut to the 21st century and 11 year-old Beatrix (Abby Howells), according to playwright Ralph McCubbin Howell, craves a beard because history and her daily experiences tell her the best way to be listened to and be taken seriously is to have one. But while her fathers, Samson and McSamson (Paul Waggott and Ralph McCubbin Howell), reputedly the best barbers in the land, trim beards – and comprise a mellifluous Barbers’ Shop Duet to boot – they don’t grow them, except for their own healthy specimens, that is.
So Beatrix goes to bed wishing … and is answered with a visitation from the exotic Wilgefortis who, despite being the Patron Saint of Beared Ladies, still has to achieve one more miracle in order to be officially sanctified. She is granted three chances to step through the mirror into the past and seek advice from a bearded mentor of her choosing.
But who to consult? William Shakespeare for his intelligence? Santa Claus for his kindness? Archimedes for his practical science? A cleverly staged Ancient bathhouse scene allows Beatrix to give Archi his ‘Eureka!’ moment but she gets no credit let alone a beard …
And so it goes: eschewing Sigmund Freud and Rasputin, Charles Darwin seems her next best bet … but isn’t. Blackbeard the pirate? King Henry VIII? Abraham Lincoln is her last resort … And again, according to McCubbin Howell (via Beatrix’s dream), our heroine helps them find their places in history but gets nothing in return – except for some wisdom born of these experiences.
Directed by Hannah Smith, Beards, Beards, Beards plays out in a dynamic yet relaxed fashion. Paul Waggott and Ralph McCubbin Howell have a ball manifesting the hirsute spectres of Beatrix’s dream and Abby Howells holds purposeful focus on the central quest with spirited flair.
Edward Watson’s production design evokes a barbers’ shop, makes great use of picture-cum-mirror frames and other props, and is splendidly activated by the company, abetted by Marcus McShane’s lighting design and Gareth Hobbs’ compositions and sound design.
It is a tribute to all concerned, on stage and off, that the two hundred-plus excited (i.e. noisy) senior primary children (Years 5 to 8) packed into Circa Theatre become attentive and interested throughout the 45 minute show.
A great strength of McCubbin Howell’s writing is that he doesn’t talk down to his young audience, knowing they are at an inquisitive age. “They’re an outmoded symbol of the patriarchy!” is but one of many elements likely to provoke further enquiry and/or provide parents and teachers with the opportunity to explore the themes and historical contexts further.
Even the rotating barber’s poles (the red, white and blue helix) are bound to fascinate young minds and inspire them. If your children aren’t going with a school group this week, there are two public performances this Saturday.
Physical, Children’s, Theatre
Ralph McCubbin Howell – Writer, Performer
Hannah Smith – Director, Operator
Adrianne Roberts (Show Pony) – Producer
Paul Waggott – Performer
Abby Howells – Performer
Edward Watson – Production Designer
Nick Zwart – Set Constructor
Additional beards construction: Jon Coddington, Nell Williams, Dawa Devereux
Gareth Hobbs – Composer and Sound Designer
Marcus McShane – Lighting Designer
Kate Clarkin – Stage Manager