28/09/2013 - 12/10/2013
Joy Cowley’s Much Loved Story Mrs Wishy-Washy Adapted For Stage for September School Holidays
“Oh lovely mud” say farm animals Cow, Duck and Pig on Mr and Mrs Wishy-Washy’s farm.
Joy Cowley’s delightful children’s story Mrs Wishy-Washy comes to life on stage for the very first time in September and October.
Auckland’s leading children’s theatre company, Tim Bray Productions, presents Mrs Wishy-Washy at The PumpHouse Theatre, Takapuna from 23 September to 12 October.
Adapted by Tim Bray and featuring original songs by Christine White, Mrs Wishy-Washy takes audiences to the farmyard where Cow, Duck and Pig love getting mucky … but Mrs Wishy-Washy loves to get them all clean. Children will enjoy the funny tussles that ensue between the mud and the suds.
Mrs Wishy-Washy stars Hamish McGregor in the title role – it is the former Invercargill school teacher’s debut professional stage appearance.
“I originally auditioned for the role of Mr Wishy-Washy,” Hamish said. “And then Tim asked me to read for Mrs Wishy-Washy. I’m looking forward to bringing her character to life.”
Hamish recently moved to Auckland after nine years as a primary school teacher in Invercargill, South Korea and China.
“I have wanted to be an actor since I was at high school and decided that now was the time to make the change!”
Also featuring is Luke Wilson as Mr Wishy-Washy and the judge, Italia Hunt as Cow, Eli Matthewson as Pig and Katie Burson as Duck, with Pippiajna Jane playing a variety of roles including the all-important ‘Mud’.
Mrs Wishy-Washy is the third in a programme of professional children’s theatre productions presented by Tim Bray Productions in 2013.
by Joy Cowley and adapted by Tim Bray
The PumpHouse, Takapuna, Auckland
Monday 23 September to Saturday 12 October.
Performance times: 23-27 September 10.30am and 1pm;
28 September to 12 October: 10.30am and 2pm,
Gala performance Saturday 28 September 5pm.
Children are encouraged to dress up as their favourite Mrs Wishy-Washy character.
To book, phone (09) 489-8360 or online at www.timbrayproductions.co.nz
High energy, little pay-off
Review by Heidi North 04th Oct 2017
Mrs Wishy Washy by Tim Bray Productions is an adaptation of beloved New Zealand Children’s book author Joy Cowley’s iconic Mrs Wishy-Washy stories.
Cowley’s stories, while beloved by many Kiwi kids, are aimed towards infants and toddlers and as such have very little to mine as far as narrative is concerned. Unfortunately, this adaptation, despite its songs and dancing routines, struggles to add much in terms of character arcs or plot.
The play begins in a farmhouse kitchen with a jazzy song about the titular Mrs. Wishy-Washy sung by Mrs. Wishy-Washy herself (Hayley Dallimore) and Mr. Wishy Washy (Zak Enayat). The show’s plot is quickly set up: there will be a contest tomorrow to see which animals are going to be the cleanest, neatest, tidiest and sweetest smelling.
Mrs Wishy Washy, with her obsession with being clean, neat, tidy and sweet smelling, seems like a shoo in for the prize. However, Cow (Tim Raby), Pig (Dylan Underwood) and Duck (Katie Burson) with their love for being muddy – have other plans.
The show takes a turn for the surreal with the casting of an actor (Amber Liberté) as a personification of bubble/mud/water, who joins in the fun and leads the animals astray.
The animals are full of mischief, as they head towards being assessed at the farm show, but they can’t help but get muddy on the way.
Because this show is 55 minutes long, there needs to be more for children to latch onto. Mrs Wishy Washy is high energy, the cast make a great go of it, and it does have a plot structure and songs and dancing routines. But there is a lack of pay off as there are no character arcs or impediments to overcome – other than keeping the animals clean. This feels like a missed opportunity to go deeper and provide some satisfying character development. As it is, not one of them changes or learns anything during this story and the young audience’s interest wanes.
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Perfect school holiday entertainment
Review by Zanna Gillespie 04th Oct 2017
The theme song and opening number of Mrs Wishy Washy may play in your head for hours after you’ve left the theatre but you’re unlikely to have any other gripes with this delightful children’s musical.
Tim Bray Productions’ show is an adaptation of the beloved children’s book by Joy Cowley with songs by Christine White.
Hayley Dallimore is the fabulously camp Mrs Wishy Washy, a farm wife with an exaggerated Kiwi accent who delights in keeping her home – and animals – clean, neat and tidy. The mud-loving Cow (Tim Raby), Pig (Dylan Underwood) and Duck (Katie Burson) make for an hysterical trio wreaking havoc at the Wishy Washy farm with Mud, Bubbles and Water, played excellently for laughs by a very limber Amber Liberte. [More]
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Good clean fun
Review by Dionne Christian 10th Oct 2013
One of the great joys of being a parent is taking your children to kids’ theatre and watching the expressions of joy, delight, awe and sheer amazement on their faces as they experience the magic of a live show.
Because they’re kids, they don’t know ‘the rules’ about sitting still and keeping quiet so they’re likely to yell advice to the characters – and even tell them off if they feel they need it – sing along and dance with wild enthusiasm. They’ll comment, frequently loudly, on things they recognise and shout about what they think is going to happen. [More]
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Classy premiere perfectly pitched
Review by Lexie Matheson 30th Sep 2013
Tim Bray Productions provides a school holiday service to parents which is of a consistently high theatrical standard and a service to schools that is second to none.
The shows are always of top quality, they’re easily accessible, they’re fun, they invariably introduce audiences to excellent New Zealand literature and, judging by the ‘house full’ sign that regularly appears outside The Pumphouse Theatre, this is a mix that has ‘trustworthy’ written all over it.
The work is cleverly conceived too because every season there’s a new audience of fresh-faced youngsters and excited caregivers just itching to be entertained and engaged because, well, people just go on having babies and those babies just keep growing up. Bray’s productions do all of the above in a time-honoured, if somewhat conservative, fashion and who can complain about this as a classy introduction to the magic of live performance. It’s formulaic, sure, but what of that? It pleases – and continues to please – and that’s all that matters.
Joy Cowley is rightfully one of New Zealand’s most respected writers for adults, young adults and children. Her website tells us that she “sees herself as a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother, this is who she is and writing is what she does.”
She has been writing for children since 1953 with some of her stories created especially for a son who was having difficulty learning to read. Many of these stories were published in the New Zealand School Journal during the 1960s and 70s and are still available in this format. During her association with the Story Box Reading Programme Joy wrote more than 600 titles.
While best known as a writer for children, Cowley also writes books of spiritual reflection and this area of interest, in my opinion, permeates all of her work. Many awards have come her way including an OBE for services to children’s literature, a DCNZOM (Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit), the Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction and, to top it all off, Massey University awarded her an honorary D.Litt (Doctor of Literature).
Mrs Wishy-Washy made her first appearance in print in 1980 and since then has appeared in 20 short stories over a 30 year period during which time she appears not to have aged, nor has her fashion sense evolved with the times. She is usually accompanied in the stories by her three best mates, Cow, Duck and Pig, and somewhat less often by her human dishwasher husband, Mr Wishy-Washy.
Mrs Wishy-Washy, like many of our mothers, promotes neatness, tidiness, cleanliness and believes that everyone should smell as sweet as roses – not an easy task when dealing with her rather impish farm yard creatures.
Cowley has, through the use of “rhyme, rhythm and repetition”, slotted into a unique style of early learning, a form that does not lend itself easily to dramatisation as, while the books are rich in onomatopoeia and resonant sound, they are comparatively short on narrative.
For all the above reasons Bray’s decision to script the Mrs Wishy-Washy stories must have been a challenge but a challenge he has risen to with an expertise that is admirable. That he has been successful speaks volumes for his understanding of the genre and of the creative process itself. Bray has sensibly chosen to create his work within a readily understood form: adult actors playing animals in wonderfully eccentric costumes, a larger than life female character played, in pantomime style, by a wonderfully jovial male and with a single, gender-neutral actor playing a number of linking characters who largely carry the tale.
With the Big Farm Fair happening ‘tomorrow’, which also happens to be Mrs Wishy-Washy’s birthday, it is absolutely essential that Cow, Duck and Pig remain clean, tidy and sweet smelling to impress the judges. Mud, predictably, gets in the way and provides a number of riotous opportunities for the washing, scrubbing and shampooing of everything in sight, all – and I mean all – crammed into a giant metal tub and accompanied by a surfeit of bubbles.
All resolves happily, cake is devoured, medals are worn and yet another Tim Bray Productions full house leaves the theatre abundantly satisfied. Few would realise that they had just witnessed the premier performance of a brand spanking new work that could well become a staple for children’s theatre over the next decade, such is the ease with which Bray’s cast and crew have carried it all off.
The brightly coloured set (Jessika Verryt) is enchantingly practical and contains a multitude of surprises.
The costumes (Chantelle Gerrard) are true to the wonderfully vivid, original illustrations of Elizabeth Ann Fuller and are brought to life in excellent fashion by all the members of the cast.
Luke Wilson plays a delightfully subservient Mr Wishy-Washy and adds a suitably camp Big Farm Fair judge and lugubriously laconic TV camera operator to his repertoire of characters. He supports ably and, where necessary, drives the narrative.
Hamish McGregor is Mrs Wishy-Washy and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the role. McGregor, dressed perfectly as per the books, embodies the busty, jovial country woman with seaming ease and develops relationships of quality with all the other characters.
Eli Matthewson is Pig. He is pink, robust and everything a pig should be, right down to rapping of (intentionally) questionable quality. Matthewson is an actor of merit and he serves Bray’s text well while at the same time being a vital part of the farmyard trio.
Italia Hunt is a very naughty Cow. His antics in the mud, excellent physicality and sublime comic timing ensure that Cow is an audience favourite throughout.
Katie Burson is a delightful Duck. It’s worth noting at this point that the make-up design (Natasya Yusoff) for all characters – human and animal – contributes tremendously to the success of this production and this is perhaps best exemplified in the masterwork that is Duck.
Burson is a wonderfully talented actor and has, in Duck, created a subtle characterisation that really grows on the audience. Her solo performance is a fantastic example of what’s possible when talent and character collide and the applause for this is long and heartfelt. Duck is like that kid at school who is always behind the naughtiness but who never seems to get caught.
Last but certainly not least is Pippiajna Tui Jane, who plays an incredible raft of characters – Mud, Bubbles, Water, Carwash, Big Farm Fair announcer and TV reporter – with such joy and dynamism that she almost steals the show.
Each Jane character is finally drawn and threads the narrative together in a way that ensures a continuity that is critical, and all with a zip and a zing that is immediately likeable.
Tim Bray Productions work for children is always enriched by the musical excellence of Christine White who writes the first-rate songs. They are seamlessly woven into Bray’s narrative and performed live and with finesse by Kristie Addison.
As already noted, but worthy of repeating, Mrs Wish-Washy is performed with an ease and confidence that disguises the fact that this is the premier season of a complex and challenging new work. It’s an all singing, all dancing show and is class from beginning to end.
Audiences can’t fail to enjoy Mrs Wishy-Washy because it is perfectly pitched at the youngsters for whom it has been created and is exactly the right length. It’s not patronising and, while not aimed at the adults in the house, there’s plenty for us big people to enjoy as well. Excellent though it already is, I anticipate that Mrs Wishy-Washy will refine even more as cast and crew discover those additional subtleties that their audience will introduce them to.
Mrs Wishy-Washy is more than just a comfortable hour long dalliance in the theatre. It is a fine addition to the children’s theatre repertoire and it does Joy Cowley proud on every level. It’s well worth a visit but get in quick because it’s bound to sell out.
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It’s been a real privilege to watch Tim Bray Productions evolve and quietly secure a place in an arts environment otherwise littered with the corpses of larger companies who have over-reached themselves, burnt out or, more than likely, simply ceased to be ‘du jour’ with funders and punters alike. While funding and box office income will always be an issue for theatre groups in this philistine country, Tim Bray Productions seems to have found a satisfying sense of equilibrium where increased business nous and undoubted hard work makes for a thoroughly worthwhile experience for those of us who sit comfortably on the other side of the footlights.
Don’t get me wrong, ‘conservative’ and ‘formulaic’ are, in this context, excellent qualities and they apply to the superstructure – the bricks and mortar – of the productions and not to the work itself, rather like a sanctuary that disguises some serious artistic risk taking within an overtly easy confidence of presentation and Mrs Wishy-Washy is certainly a case in point.
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