Hamilton Gardens, Kitchen Garden, Hamilton

18/02/2012 - 19/02/2012

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2012

Production Details

Beatrix Potter’s charming tale is brought to life in a real garden.  Peter Rabbit is a carrot-loving hero who gets into a tricky situation.  Can you help him escape grumpy old Mr McGregor and his slinky-dinky cat?  High energy, fun and interactive – a show to delight the whole family. 

Includes a delicious afternoon tea with the cast. A fun and fantastic story for children aged 3 to 333 (excluding cynical, bored teenagers).  

High energy, fun and interactive.  Peter Rabbit is an appealing hero in a tricky situation.  The audience will laugh, gasp and cheer.  This is a play to introduce young people to, or extend their exposure to theatre.  Through this experience families will gather together, they will share a special time in the gardens, they will discuss the story (it’s not an ‘obvious’ morality tale). 

They will also see actors at work in several facets of the production.  The actors (not yet in costume, but in blacks) act as their own front-of-house.  They take tickets and welcome people to the space.  They usher and they chat.  For young children this is especially important.  Then the show happens and the audience is encouraged to participate in a variety of ways.  After the show the space is again shared by the actors and the audience.  This breaks down the traditional barriers between actor and audience and demystifies the acting experience.

Kitchen Garden, Hamilton Garden
HamiltonGardens Arts Festival 2012

18 February 2012

18 February 2012

18 February 2012

19 February 2012

19 February 2012

19 February 2012 

Adults: $10.00 Children (5-15 year): $5.00 Under 5’s: FREE Cash at the Door

The right play in the right place by the right people for the right length of time

Review by Gail Pittaway 19th Feb 2012

Site specific theatre is rather in vogue at present. In many ways the entire Hamilton Gardens Festival of the Arts is a site specific event, taking place annually for the last two weeks of February in most of the beautiful garden ‘rooms’ that make up this impressive site.  

Shows regularly perform in theMedici Court, theEnglishGardenand theAmericanModernistGarden, the Rose Garden or the Camellia Lawn. There’s cabaret in the conservatory and a wet weather venue under the canopy that is placed over the large round brick Italian Piazza.  

This year three new sites have opened for events: a new Tudor garden hosts the outdoor Shakespeare; theMaoriGarden, Te Parapara, hosts a night ofNew Zealandpoetry readings and song; in the large walled Kitchen Garden, this weekend, Peter Rabbit is being a very naughty rabbit three times a day.

More the kitchen garden for a house the size of Downton Abbey, this one consists of about a half-acre of huge raised beds for vegetable plants. A section of one of these has been turned into the stage set and faithfully recreates the setting for Beatrix Potter’s classic story. There’s a picket fence and gate, beds of carrots radishes, lettuce, celery and cabbages, a garden shed, and pots, a bucket, a watering can and of course the rather lethal looking hoe and rake. 

Full House Productions have made a charming re-creation of this sunny little tale with a few innovative twists. Only the animals speak words; Mr McGregor speaks like a drunken Yorkshireman and only his cat can translate his words.  Three actors take all the roles but invite two audience volunteers for each show to assist as Mopsy and Cottontail.

Mrs. Rabbit and Flopsy welcome the audience who are all seated in a raised garden bed under a very welcome awning in the hot daytime sun. They then sort us into categories of birds for making noises during the show; as tweeters, chirpers and – for the older birds in the audience – honking geese. 

Michael Switzer doubles as Mrs. Rabbit and Mr McGregor, Michael Gaastra lisps as Flopsy then hisses as the cat, in a completely separate costume with ears, while Alice Kimber-Bell gives us a cheerfully naughty Peter and interacts with all other the characters.

At one stage the three actors head behind the garden shed which transforms into a puppet theatre to enact, in puppet mode, one of the chases and fight scenes, and Peter’s confrontation with a pea-stealing mouse. Then Peter’s sneezes squirt all over Mr McGregor and we are returned to the dusty garden bed for more action.

All of the actors cope well with the heat and the amazing amounts of dust they generate on their real soil stage. This is a very physical production, with several chases, a cat and rabbit fight, and even – to everyone’s delight – a rabbit defecating near the tool shed!

As well, they cope with many lively scripted and unscripted interruptions from their young audience who call out, stand up, form a posse when called, or just walk around and even help themselves to the odd carrot from the set.

The costumes are fun, too: ears and flexible body suits for the young animals and nineteenth century garb for the older characters. Peter’s blue jacket is a perfect replica of the one in drawings by his creator, complete with a row of brass buttons.

As if this weren’t entertainment enough, all we birds are finally shooed down from our perches and herded into an adjoining space for a small tea party of lemonade (home-made), tea cakes, fruit and delicious cucumber sandwiches: an uplifting end to a hot session. It is lovely to see, as I elbow my way to the cucumber sandwich plate, families sitting to picnic in the shade, talking to the cast who are still in character, and one tiny person in a stroller clutching her soft toy of Peter Rabbit.

This was a great idea and well done to the cast who also devised it. It’s just the right play in the just the right place by the right people and for the right length of time. There are well deserved full houses for all of the performances.  


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