The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

17/01/2018 - 27/01/2018

Production Details

Puff Soars into The Court  

Kids will discover how to believe in dragons – and in themselves – in The Court Theatre’s delightful production of Puff the Magic Dragon.

Christchurch Writer Carl Nixon tells an original tale of young Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Paper, who befriends the magical dragon Puff. When Puff’s mighty roar is stolen by a band of pirates, Jackie and Puff team up to recover it before the wicked Captain Fogarty can use it for his nefarious plans! The adventure mixes comedy, action and fun to create an entertaining romp for all ages.

“Puff the Magic Dragon is the story of one girl’s journey into the power of imagination,” says director Elsie Edgerton-Till. “This will be a high-spirited day at the theatre for all those young at heart.”

An expert cast of dragon enthusiasts has been assembled for Puff, pulling together some of Canterbury’s most experienced children’s entertainers. Monique Clementson, who was most recently at The Court in Cinderella in Space and has just completed a national tour of Saturday Night Fever, plays Jackie Paper. Sophie Petersen brings her ability to juggle multiple roles last seen in Bad Jelly the Witch; Albany Paseta utilises skills at puppetry and performing in full-body costume from Matatihi and The Ugly Duckling; while Bianca Seinafo rounds off the cast with her effortless charm honed on TV’s What Now as well as The Court’s 2017 seasons of Crash Bash and Hamlet: The Video Game (the stage show). Edgerton-Till says “I am proud to work with such a stellar cast to bring Carl Nixon’s play to life.”

The show incorporates many theatrical tricks for the titular dragon, although the creative team are tightlipped as to how the magical creature will come to life. “We want how Puff is created on stage to remain a surprise for the audience,” says costume designer Deborah Moore. 

Edgerton-Till believes Puff the Magic Dragon will be a whimsical flight of fancy for the young and young at heart. “Our creative team are bringing their inner child to their work. This production will be a voyage into the power of imagination and the importance of believing in yourself.”

The Court Theatre
17-27 January 2018.
Monday – Friday 11am and 1pm. 
Relaxed Performance: 3pm Friday 26 January
All tickets $10. Caregivers Required.
Booking Details: 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz

Jackie Paper:  Monique Clementson
Mrs Paper/Jasper Parrot/Tom/Belinda:  Bianca Seinafo
Amber/Crumble:  Sophie Petersen
Puff/Captain Fogarty/B&B Prince: Albany Paseta

Director:  Elsie Edgerton-Till 
Stage Manager:  Ruth Love
Set Designer:  Harold Moot
Costume Designer:  Deborah Moor
Lighting Designer:  Giles Tanner
Sound Designer: Tim Heeringa
Operator:  Rachel Pugh
Properties Manager: Christy Lassen
Production Manager: Flore Charbonnier 

Theatre , Family , Children’s ,

Vibrant, warm and energetic

Review by Erin Harrington 18th Jan 2018

For the Court Theatre’s summer children’s show, writer Carl Nixon takes the sparse raw ingredients of the children’s song Puff the Magic Dragon and uses it as a scaffold for a story about pirates, seaside adventure and (here’s the message) believing in yourself and others. The song’s maudlin conclusion acts as set up: Puff is hiding mournfully in a cave as he has lost his mighty roar – to bumbling, villainous pirates who’ve pinched it to use as a key component for a weapon of mass destruction.  

Our human hero, Jackie Paper (Monique Clementson), is a dynamic girl who has just moved to a new seaside town with her distracted, corporate mother. She tries to entertain herself and – after a series of capers featuring a slate of comic characters (played by Sophie Petersen, Bianca Seinafo and Albany Peseta in skilfully rapid rotation) – she finds herself face to face with the mournful, low-status dragon (Peseta, caramel-voiced and operating a large puppet).

This puts her on a threefold mission: to help her new buddy find his voice (and hers, too, in a more metaphorical sense), to get home to mum and to stand her ground against some bullies. This offers the framework for some delightful nautical action and adventure.

One of my pet peeves in theatre for young people is when it looks cheaply tacked together (with sealing wax and string?) but here the creative team, led by director Elsie Edgerton-Till, have paid great care and attention to the look and feel of the show as a holistic entity. The Court’s children’s shows must adapt to the set of the evening show, for good or ill, and here the large sliding vertical panels of the musical Chicago are dressed beautifully with sacking, driftwood and leaves to create a bright and adaptable storybook seaside space. Light, costumes and sound, as well as the large dragon puppet, are thoughtfully constructed.

My favourite moment of the show is the ingenious transformation of the stage into pirate ship for the final action sequence. It’s well-designed, well-executed, and genuinely surprising. 

And yet, I am a little torn. Looking through the stage action itself there is a lot to like about Nixon’s script: it’s clearly localised, it features engaging and funny characters (many of whom are female! Thank you!) and it works towards a nifty resolution. But, there’s a lot going on as it follows its narrative and theatrical formula, and in places it falls into the children’s theatre trap of feeling a little ‘plug-and-play’.

This is a fun show and the vibrant cast succeed in making a connection with the audience, bringing a great deal of warmth and energy to their performances. There are lots of lovely and playful moments, and some strong character work, though at times I wish for a little more precision in vocal technique and physical comedy, and some space for reactions, as the large auditorium and the particular audience can be a challenging and unforgiving combination. 

Looking across the audience, however, it’s obvious that the show is hitting its mark with those it’s written for. There’s a monster alert for particularly sensitive small children, of course. The little boy next to me is nearly weeping at the beginning (and is comforted adorably by his only slightly older brother) but he immediately perks up when he realises that Puff isn’t a real dragon, just a puppet dragon, which is a little paradoxical, when the play also asks the children (in the vein of Peter Pan) to perk Puff up by loudly declaring their belief in the dragons. What does it matter – he’s placated and is happily bouncing around on his seat, roaring along by the end. 


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