The Ugly Duckling

Court One, Christchurch

28/09/2009 - 10/10/2009

Production Details

These spring school holidays at The Court, a little duckling is about to discover that beauty – and ugliness – may only be feather-deep!

Written by popular children’s playwright, Carl Nixon, THE UGLY DUCKLING follows a young duckling on her adventure into the big wide world, encountering a host of characters – from a flamboyant Hans Christian Anderson to two very crazy French frogs – along the way.

Torum Heng stars as the Ugly Duckling, and is joined by Jonathan Martin (currently starring in Roger Hall’s sell-out FOUR FLAT WHITES IN ITALY) and Rutene Spooner (in his first production as The Court’s 2009/2010 acting intern), filling out the multitude of other characters.    At the helm is director Ross McKellar, who promises that "children will delight in this play, with its fun characters and inventive audience interaction."

With all tickets only $7, THE UGLY DUCKLING is fantastically affordable school holiday entertainment, full of delightful songs, characters and interaction.  It is recommended for children aged 3 to 10.

The Court Theatre, Monday 28 September – Saturday 10 October
Mon-Fri 11am & 1pm, Saturdays 11am
All tickets $7*
Book at The Court Theatre Box Office, 963 0870 or online at 
*50c booking fee applies for online bookings. 

Actor:  Torum Heng
Actor 2:   Jono Martin
Actor 3:  Rutene Spooner

Lighting Design:  Brendan Albrey
Music:   Michael Bell
Set design:  Richard Van Den Burg
Costume design:  Annie Graham
Sound design, Operator:  Geoff Nunn
Stage manager:  Rebecah Ising
Props:  Helen Beswick

50 mins, no interval

A generous helping of theatre fun

Review by Lindsay Clark 28th Sep 2009

Among his playwriting credits, Carl Nixon has earned a solid reputation for inventive children’s theatre, well-tuned to the 3 plus age group and well-liked by their amiable hangers-on.

The story of the reject runt’s triumphant transformation into a thing of beauty and grace endorses all that good advice about being patient and good tempered at the same time as it offers plenty of opportunities for meeting a cavalcade of zesty new characters while we wait for the spring and new feathers to sprout. Director Ross McKellar and the Court team have a lot of fun too.

As is the way with such events, the ‘catch ’em’ phase is all important, so that the wide space inhabited by Four Flat Whites each evening remains open for lots of antics with only an inviting bookcase to catch the eye. We are in the library of somewhat dotty Hans Christian himself. His clowning efforts to come out from behind the shelves is a classic and successful attention grabber.

The audience must help him write his new tale of course and after some comic false starts a small voice suggests the one we have come to share.

Share we do. There is abundant audience participation as a trio of performers takes us through the hatching, schooling and perilous waiting time of the ugly (but oh so cute) ‘duckling’. She meets a friendly pointer dog and his gun-toting master as well as a rumbustious pair of French frogs, all keeping the action pumping and the surprises arriving.

What is surprising, is that the most popular audience moments are still in the traditional ‘look behind yer!’ vein rather than the creative invitations such as  storm-scapes or snow falls. The latter are necessary time fillers while two of the three actors work their role-change magic, but if there is a slow minute or so it comes with this device.

Perhaps this raises the question of what we want and expect from children’s holiday theatre. Is the sort of treatment Carol Ann Duffy so successfully modelled for the Young Vic with the Grimm brothers’ work (Grimm Tales ) so far  beyond our expectations that we will always settle for cartoon versions of the greats? The small fry are in no doubt however. They lap it up and are well entertained, which must surely be the first step.

As an ensemble, Jonathan Martin (among other things an engaging Hans and a charming frog), Rutene Spooner (a splendidly motherly duck, galumphing hound and the other extraordinary frog) and Torum Heng (the focus of all the fuss and ultimately a very graceful swan) all contribute strong physical and vocal colour to the production. Their wacky costumes by Annie Graham add to the glee.

All in all the helping of theatre fun is generous. Any doubts about the recipe will have to wait.
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