A WONDERLAND OF LEARNING AND ENTERTAINMENT
Writer: Peter Wilson
Director: Kerryn Palmer
Composer: Laughton Pattrick
Lyricist: Jenny Pattrick
Musical Director: Tim Solly
Capital E NATIONAL THEATRE FOR CHILDREN
at Hannah Playhouse (previously Downstage), Wellington
From 5 Oct 2013 to 12 Oct 2013
Reviewed by Jo Hodgson, 7 Oct 2013
“Coming ready or not!”
And this audience is ready. Ready with enthusiastic shouts and laughter as the characters, 3 cousins – Helen Grant, Anna Neyland and Martin Quicke – race playfully onto the stage.
Hilarity ensues as we yell, “Behind you!! Over there, behind that one, no the other one!” – the classic theatre gag that never seems to lose its appeal. And the delighted giggles and snorts from the full-ish house at the opening performance are so loud at times, the interactions sometimes swamp the actors dialogue.
When the cousins realise they won't see each other for a year, they wonder how long that really is and begin the journey through the seasons.
These seasonal worlds are expertly brought to life with narrative by writer Peter Wilson, and songs by composer and lyricist Laughton and Jenny Pattrick, beautifully interwoven with dance, Debz Ruffell's exquisite puppets, NZ sign and te reo.
Each season is depicted through great use of light, vibrant or muted as required, humour, both scripted and spontaneous audience contributions and delicious swirling textures of fabric props which often become backdrops to set each seasonal mood and image with an informative ‘phases of the moon' song being the recurring segue for each change.
Seasons is a wonderland of learning and entertainment with many highlights; particularly the aforementioned puppets animated so splendidly both vocally and physically by the actors; the chuckles from young and old during the bird courtship and egg laying ‘labour'; the life-cycle of the butterfly and such memorable songs, like the Spider using fun onomatopoeic ‘boing's' while it bounces on a clever web ‘spun' between two of the several moveable panels used extensively throughout the production as skylines, trees, wharfs, garden beds, and walls.
For me the only incongruous character, although very cute, is the ballet dancing lamb. The other characters, although their personification is amplified, stay true to their identity.
The suggested age range of 2 – 7 yrs is bang on and my daughter at 2.5yrs relates our recent observations about spring in our garden by calling out “new leaves” and “food” to the birds as they return in spring after finding no food in the winter segment.
Seasons is in its 13th year of performance and I'm sure has had many of its own life cycle changes over this time. This production is tight, excellently performed and the flow is faultless.
It seems fitting that it plays at the Hannah Playhouse – better known as Downstage Theatre – at this time of ‘seasonal changes'. Let's hope that the theatre is now just like the little mouse in hibernation, ready to burst forth with new life and vitality when spring comes around again.
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Laurie Atkinson (The Dominion Post);