A Paintbox of Clowns

Court One, Christchurch

05/07/2010 - 17/07/2010

Fortune Theatre Studio, Dunedin

07/07/2012 - 15/07/2012

Production Details


The Court Theatre presents a children’s show with a twist these school holidays – A PAINTBOX OF CLOWNS. Three magical characters delight and entertain children and grown-ups alike for 50 minutes – all without uttering a single word.

Writer and director Dan Bain trained as a clown and circus performer at Circoarts before working as a Court Jester, actor and performer in several children’s shows at The Court. He feels that physical theatre is truly a universal language. “Mime, slapstick and clowning are some of the oldest and purest comedic art forms… (and) physical business is consistently a great hit when woven into the more traditional kids shows. It seemed a natural progression to extend the ‘business’ to an entire show’s worth” says Bain.

Daniel Allan, Anna Meaclem and Hamish Parkinson play the three wordless characters. “Usually most actors have to learn lines, while we have to learn physical routines and movement – it’s challenging but also made rehearsals really fun,” says Allan, a Nelson-based actor and performer.

Bain believes audiences can expect “everything they already love about Court Kids shows, served a different way. Come prepared for big characters, big surprises and big laughs.” 

To enjoy an adventure beyond words, be sure to see A PAINTBOX OF CLOWNS at The Court Theatre from July 5 – 17. All tickets $8. 

Show dates: July 5 – 17 2010
Performance times: 11am & 1pm Mon –Fri, 11am only Sat. No show Sundays.
Venue: The Court Theatre, 20 Worcester Boulevard, The Arts Centre
All tickets $8 Bookings: (03) 963 0870 or online at www.courttheatre.org.nz 

Dunedin season, 2012 

Fortune Theatre Studio
Saturday, 7 July – Sunday, 15 July
11am and 1pm daily (no shows Monday, 9 July)
all tickets $8 BOOK NOW 

RED: Dan Allan
GREEN:  Hamish Parkinson
Anna Meaclem

SET DESIGN: Nigel Kerr
OPERATOR:  William Pauly McCahon
SOUND:  Hamish Oliver
COSTUMES:  Beryl Hampson
PROPS:  Helen Beswick
SET CONSTRUCTION:  The Court Theatre Workshop

Fresh and charming

Review by Terry MacTavish 14th Jul 2012

Fleur is three-and-a-half and wears pink boots.  She sits behind me on her mother’s lap.  Around us is the happy hum of children winding up and adults winding down. The intimacy of the Hutchinson Studio is perfect for children’s shows, and a white box, with spotlight circles of red, blue and green, is all that is needed when the lycra and fun-fur costumes are so colourful and cute.

Writer Dan Bain is a distinguished offspring of Circoarts, and the show itself is descended from the long proud lineage of commedia del arte: mime, slapstick, clowning, a bit of gymnastics and a host of interactive antics to silly bouncy music.  Currently in our Art Gallery, on loan from Auckland, is Breughel’s marvellous painting of the village fair with its little stage set up for travelling players.  Not much has changed, with the emphasis on crowd-pleasing physical comedy.

Red-nose clown characters tentatively appear on stage; inquisitive Red, sparky Blue and wistful Green, who look like charming drawings by Tove Jansson or Dr Seuss, anyone with lots of s’s really.  They have to be guided to their coloured spots in the paintbox by an enthusiastic audience. As a species we are remarkably helpful, bossy even.  Having thus made a commitment to the drama – as drama educator Dorothy Heathcote from Yorkshire would say – the audience now has a stake in the performance, and remains rapt and wholly involved throughout.

The plot is slender in the extreme, and the paintbox theme isn’t really developed, but the wonder of everyday things is timeless, and in the simplicity lies the charm.  Green finds a large pebble in his shoe. “It’s a wock!” yells someone triumphantly, (not Fleur who can pronounce her ‘r’s) and tender-hearted Green puts the wock carefully to bed after it has been checked out by Blue with her stethoscope. “Why does she have a doctor’s stethoscope?” enquires one clear voice, and this time it is Fleur. Three-and-a-half year olds nowadays are a lot smarter than I was at their age.

Nevertheless the older ones are not too sophisticated to enjoy the simple humour of the show, and when the stethoscope turns out to amplify thoughts in actor or audience heads, even the adults are laughing, too loudly for Fleur, who has fingers in ears and for a moment looks remarkably like Grumpy Flower-girl at the last Royal Wedding.

Most of the rest of the story revolves around Green’s quest for food. The carrot, to which the kids frantically direct him, has a worm, which must also be put to bed with a lullaby, and when an apple appears, it is out of reach.  The other characters aren’t much use, though they do come up with a very imaginative 101 uses for a stepladder. The kids are spinning with delighted frustration as they try to advise clueless Green. Luckily Red produces a slingshot, and with a little help from a hijacked duck and a lot of help from an inspired audience, the problem is satisfactorily solved.

A Paint Box of Clowns is a fresh and charming show.  We are not treated to the spectacular acrobatics of The Little Jester (last year at the Fortune) but the physical energy is very appealing, and perhaps it is easier for children to relate to characters who move and behave more like the youngsters themselves.  The humour is pitched exactly right.  Fart jokes are crass in most contexts, but in children’s theatre they are just, well, cheeky.

The actors are skilful and very engaging: Daniel Allan as the energetic leader Red, Monique Clark as an adorable Blue, and Hamish Parkinson as a convincingly sweet and timid Green.  All understand how to play to the audience and invite participation in very non-threatening ways. 

With such quality entertainment, this small touring company, supported by stage manager Lisa van den Berg and technician Andrew Todd, is welcome back every school holiday.  Live music next time, maybe?

Afterwards in the foyer, friendly red-nosed clowns in red and blue and green give farewell hugs, and nice ladies offer chocolates.  Suddenly I remember it is Dunedin’s Cadbury Chocolate Carnival and realise the audience has missed out on the famous giant jaffa roll down the world’s steepest street.  Anxiously I seek out a pair of pink boots.  It’s ok, Fleur reassures, mouth full of chocolate, coming to this show is the best thing that’s happened. In three and a half years. 


Make a comment

Bright and innovative

Review by Lindsay Clark 05th Jul 2010

In a welcome progression from the hyped-up fairy tales so often encountered for the school holiday seasons, Dan Bain has led the charge into the demanding but rewarding world of wordless theatre. Himself a graduate of Circoarts, he has assembled this piece for three clowns of paintbox colours and vibrancy.

The shell of Harold Moot’s set, used in the current season of On the Rocks,is completely side-lined by the antics of Red, a bright beanpole of a clown full of ideas and hopeful initiatives, Blue, sparky and energetic, and Green, the slow and timid fellow of lugubrious countenance and tender heart.

It is a promising combination and the time flies by in spite of a shortage of real material for the trio to work with.

Some of the gags are traditional, such as the shy entries and the muddle over which (paintbox ) spot to stand in, but they are enormously popular for all that. The fresh business – epitomised by an elusive apple and a forgiving duck – provide great opportunities for collaborative puzzle solving, with audience contributions more heartfelt and sustained than more predictable story telling generally captures.

Of critical importance to the overall success of the clown world is Hamish Oliver’s sound. His cues and funky accompaniment are spot on and contribute time and again to the action and the laughter, as do some clever props, especially the stethoscope which can hear thoughts as well as noises expected and unexpected.

The clowns themselves are secure and agile performers, although they are never challenged to test their physical prowess very strenuously. Daniel Allan (Red), Anna Meaclem (Blue) and Hamish Parkinson (Green) combine in a zesty performance which clearly delighted the punters around me, old and young alike.

The paintbox idea itself is not developed far, but as a bright and innovative show, Dan Bain’s bid to capture the imagination of the youngest theatregoers, along with their minders, has to be seen as a bounce in the right direction.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council