The Little Big Top – Busker Park, Christchurch

16/01/2016 - 23/01/2016


Production Details

There’s magic on the loose! Join David and Lizzie on their messy adventure to put the magic back where it belongs, before everyone gets a cream pie in the face!

Expect riotous fun, crazy magic and a chance for the kids to get up on the stage and into the story as our heroes battle against gravity, exploding food and their own total silliness.

No one will be sitting still for long as we enter a wonderful world of magical marvels, lots of laughs and arbitrary alliteration!

As seen in Circus Allsorts, The Cat in the Hat (Court Theatre), The Loons Circus Theatre Company, New Zealand Playhouse and last year’s World Buskers Festival (as Mr and Mrs Alexander).

Little Big Top, Busker Park
11am daily from 16-23 January

Theatre , Magic/Illusion , Family , Clown , Children’s ,

Refreshingly different

Review by Erin Harrington 16th Jan 2016

It’s a good sign when you arrive at a kids’ show that markets itself as a little bit messy, and the first few rows are being given wet weather ponchos in case of splashes.  

In The Messy Magic Show, the responsible, officious cleaner Spray (Lizzie Tollemache) and her partner, the wayward, goofy Wipe (David Ladderman), have been called to spruce up the house of a magician (the disembodied voice of Greg Cooper, in voice-of-God mode), but between sorting out the sheets and attending to the cobwebs, Wipe can’t help but open the big, wooden, forbidden magic box that’s plonked in the middle of the stage. The magic escapes (of course), the two must put it back (or not), and the whole thing descends into a charming, anarchic mess.

The Christchurch-based duo of Tollemache and Ladderman, whose work here and abroad tends towards wonderful carnie sideshow business (as in last year’s show Mr and Mrs Alexander), present a warm and witty family-friendly show that offers some genuine surprises. In between the physical comedy, the call and response, and the delightfully cartoonish character work, there are well-incorporated magic tricks that have the little kids going ‘whooooa!’ and the adults scratching their heads.   

The show pitches its dual address well. It caters to its young target audience without pandering to them or descending into scatological silliness, and it sends more than enough knowing winks and atrocious puns in the direction of the grownups.

However, by refusing to conform to the beats that have come to be expected from children’s theatre, but still embracing the warm-hearted creativity of the genre, The Messy Magic Show offers something refreshingly different.

Certainly, there’s a clear narrative arc and some conflict, especially as the initially fastidious Spray gets a taste of messy magic and goes a bit mad with her newfound powers, leaving the irresponsible Wipe to step up and demonstrate some leadership skills, but all this plays out in a terrifically unexpected way.

The show is performed in one of the World Buskers’ Festival’s tarted up marquees, and even with a full house packed with damp, rained-on people, the looseness of this environment offers more opportunities for meaningful interaction and communication with the audience than a more traditional theatre space.

I’m a sucker for a good kids’ show at the best of times but I particularly enjoy this piece, and even as the creepy solo adult in the room I find myself grinning and regularly laughing out loud at the duo’s outrageous attempts to get the job done. Oh, yeah, the kids all have a great time too.

Highly recommended for big kids and little kids alike.


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