SIT Centrestage Theatre, Invercargill

06/05/2014 - 10/05/2014

Southland Festival of the Arts 2014

Production Details

Searching in the great black forest for their cow Lucy, Tim and Rose are captured by Badjelly, the oldest, smelliest and wickedest witch in the world, who likes nothing more than turning children into sausages or chopping them up to make boy-girl soup!

Will Binklebonk the tree goblin, Mudwiggle the worm, Silly Sausage the grasshopper or Dinglemouse and his friend Jim the eagle rescue them from Badjelly’s wicked broth?

Cat’s Pyjamas’ all new production directed by Fiona Forrest is a spectacle of songs, spells and wonders.

Suitable for all ages – a family treat.

Tuesday, May 6, 11:00am & 6:30pm
Wednesday, May 7, 11:00am, 1:00pm & 6:30pm
Thursday, May 8, 11:00am
Friday, May 9, 6:30pm
Saturday, May 10, 1:00pm & 3:00pm
SIT Centrestage Theatre, Don Street, Invercargill
Book: Ticketdirect (Booking fees apply)
18 Family group concessions available 

DUR: 50 mins

Badjelly – Moira Brew
Dulboot – Richard Perica
Lucy Cow – Kate Stryszko
Tim – Ben Whatson
Rosie – Kathryn Neal
Binklebonk Tree Goblin – Shanon Smith
Silly Sausage – Miri Peachey
Mudwiggle Worm – Nathan Kennedy
Appletree Policeman – David Sheppard
Shark – Richard Perica
Dinglemouse – John Taylor
Jim Eagle – David Sheppard

Set Design – Helen Williamson-Manson 
Lighting & Sound Technician – Samuel Grant

‘Milliganesque’ qualities watered down in hammed up show

Review by Thomas LaHood 09th May 2014

I love Spike Milligan, and I love BadJelly the Witch.  What a sublime creation!  Foul-mouthed, wicked and actually dangerous in a way that few modern children’s story villains are allowed to be, she is a truly classic invention and easily challenges Meg, Hermione and the WWW for the title of ‘best witch ever.’ 

This production places BadJelly firmly at the centre of the story, opening with a ‘prologue’ sequence to the book’s events where we see her turning a police officer into an apple tree and making off with Lucy the cow.  Moira Brew (an excellent witchy name in its own right) characterises BJ with relish and even some degree of pathos.  Despite the green face and nasal voice, Brew’s performance is natural and easy to watch.  She is, quite rightly, the star of the show. 

The same ease of presence is held by the police officer/apple tree/Jim the eagle (the remaining cast I can’t identify by name as I couldn’t find a programme anywhere)* who is the only performer who seems to take time with the audience and show his face to us. 

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast could have really benefited from some of this ease.  The rest of the performances are marred by super-fast lines delivery, distracting stage ‘business’ and a lack of complicity with the audience and each other. 

The casting feels right, each performer is well suited to their role, but as they race through the text it is very hard to develop a relationship with any of them – perhaps least of all Tim and Rose, the supposed protagonists of the story.  The characters are defined by their ordinariness in contrast to the nonsensical world around them, but in this production they lack an authentic childlike sense of wonder and instead came across as boring and whiny. 

While I really enjoy the energy and pre-show engagement of Dinglemouse’s performance, during the show proper he joins Mudwiggle, Binklebonk, Lucy and Dullboot in a suffocating, hammy style that alienates the audience rather than drawing them into the action. 

There was much unnecessary upstaging too, particularly from FluffyBum the cat, whose single line mention in the book has here been fleshed out into a non-speaking role, crawling after Tim and Rose for the whole adventure but contributing nothing to the narrative.  Instead, she toys with bits of the set or rubs awkwardly against the other actors’ legs and is terribly distracting. 

If FluffyBum is mute, why then is Lucy the cow transformed into a speaking role?  This characterisation does nothing for the story, or I suspect for the audience.  The ruse by which BadJelly and Dullboot convince Lucy to go with them to the castle goes entirely over the children’s heads.

I am also mystified as to why the character of GOD is swapped out for BadJelly’s ‘Good Conscience’.  Is it to secularise the production to avoid any religious offence?  To my mind Spike Milligan’s inclusion of an all-powerful and literal deus ex machina works in perfectly with a child’s notion of what God is and his abrupt appearance has always been a favourite part of the story for me.  Here, it’s not clear just why BadJelly’s Good Conscience suddenly develops a (male) speaking voice and the power to throw her off the stage, let alone turn the apple tree back into a superintendent. 

In the Southland Times today, the co-director Helen Williamson-Manson describes the play as ‘Milliganesque’, and I think she’s right.  Some elements – BadJelly’s interpretation of the pop hit ‘Happy’; the jelly packets all over her dress – feel right on the button.  But somewhere in the process of expanding the story and characters, an essential joy and anarchy that is purely Milligan in nature is watered down and becomes something less satisfying.
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
*See credit listings here


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Waitematā Local Board