BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

18/04/2017 - 22/04/2017

Production Details

A play that uses the magic of storytelling and puppetry.  A wonderful work for both children and adults.  

A book that is so well loved by young children and now a magical stage play that deals so powerfully with childhood and age, with memory and with relationships.

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge is just four years old, he lives next door to a rest home for old people. He knows all the residents very well but his favourite person is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper because she has four names, just like him.

Presented by Little Dog Barking, the company that brought you Duck Death and the Tulip, Guji Guji, Paper Shaper, Little Kowhai Tree, Piggies and A Sausage went for a Walk.

BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage
18 – 20 April: 6pm
21 – 22 April: 10am & 11.30am
Adult $12.50
Child Aged Two or Over $12.50
Family Group Price $40 (4 tickets only) $10
Child Under 2 Years Free 

The Propeller Stage is fully wheelchair accessible; please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

The Creative Team

Little Dog Barking was established in 2010 by Peter Wilson, former artistic director of Capital E National Theatre for Children. The company specialises in puppetry and mask performance, creating work for young audiences.

The theatre company’s work has not only been recognised nationally but also internationally, winning awards for Best Foreign Drama at the 2014 Asian Pacific Puppet Festival in China, an Outstanding Theatre Award at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and with its production of Guji Guji was selected to tour to Australia, Japan and China in 2016.

Theatre , Puppetry , Family , Children’s ,

You can almost see the youngsters’ synapses sparking

Review by John Smythe 21st Apr 2017

The book, by Australian author Mem Fox, takes about six minutes to read aloud, so Little Dog Barking’s Peter Wilson and Kenneth King have padded it out a bit and built some dramatic intrigue into its telling – or rather its showing.

Inspired by Julie Vivas’s beautiful illustrations, they have created splendid rod puppets, most of which (or whom) are sitting with their backs to us as we take our seats, instantly piquing the interest of our excited young companions.

Peter introduces himself as Wilfrid Gordon Mcdonald Partridge and establishes the ‘memory’ theme by taking us back to when he was four … The little red-haired boy shows and tells us how he liked to lick a ball and jump up and down and swing from a tree – and visit the old people who lived in the home next door and were full of stories.

So we meet Mr Drysdale with a voice like a giant, Mrs Mitchell who walks with a stick, Mr Hosking who tells scary stories and Mrs Jordan who plays the organ. (Those familiar with the book may notice the absence of Mr Tippett who was crazy about cricket.)

While the book goes straight on to Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, who was his favourite because she had four names like him, this adaptation takes time to explore each character more, through their memories. Enhanced by Stephen Gallagher’s music, they employ shadow play to illustrate such things as the musical notes and instruments Mrs Jordan grew up learning; the books that took Mr Hosking’s imagination to exotic places; the ballet Mrs Mitchell loved so much, although she “won’t be dancing today”; the big-voice Mr Drysdale had to have back when he was a … He get us to guess what his vocation used to be.

Betwixt and between these memories, a grey-haired woman with a small blue suitcase arrives … and departs, piquing our curiosity until we are just as keen as Wilfrid is to find out who she is. He learns from his parents that Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper has lost her memory (we’re back on track with the book now), asks each of the others what ‘memory’ is then sets about finding things in his own toy box and treasure collections to put in Miss Nancy’s previously empty case.  

Stimulated by his gifts, Miss Nancy begins to remember things – some happy, some funny, some sad. Her memory has been found again.

Our three young companions – one four and two five year-olds, which makes for a boisterous trio – readily become entranced, which is proof enough the time-honoured skills of Peter Wilson and Kenneth King, directed here by Lyndee Jane Rutherford, are intact. You can almost see the youngsters’ synapses sparking as they tune into to the story.

Little Dog Barking specialises in quiet, calm plays that draw young people into a special place of imagination, intuition and feeling, touching on quite profound themes. Recent examples are Duck, Death and the Tulip, Guji Guji and Paper Shaper – which alternates with Wilfrid Gordon Mcdonald Partridge at BATS these holidays.

(I do note that quite often the puppets Peter handles have their heads tipped forward, so they seem to be looking at the front row’s feet. When this happens with Wilfrid it makes him look sad which is not part of the story at that point. It’s easily fixed, of course, and I’m sure it will be.) 


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