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iTheatre has an original new play opening next month specially for the Year of the Rooster!

From 27 April to 14 May, come and meet three famous feathered friends – the stars of three classic tales:

  • The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs, and her greedy owner;
  • The Little Red Hen, with bread to bake, but lazy friends; and
  • Chicken-Licken – with that scary acorn!

This talkative trio of feathered friends will sing, dance, show and tell you their tales. And don’t be surprised if they share some valuable wisdom and backstage secrets on the way.

A brand new, interactive, musical production presented in quite an unusual way – iTheatre will bring the audience into the world of the Theatre Stage from the inside out. The wild and wacky characters and well-known folk tales are presented in fun ways that help us to understand both the themes and morals, but along the way we also reveal valuable secrets of how a Musical is made!

Guaranteed to engage young and old alike, and filled with excitement, humour and learning points for the kids (and maybe us adults too)!

Poultry Tales
Date: 29 Apr to 14 May 2017
Timing: 10.30am and 2pm
Duration: 55 minutes musical including meet and greet
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
100 Victoria Street
National Library Building
Singapore 188064
Tickets are available from SISTIC.
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~~~*GIVEAWAY*~~~

iTheatre has generously sponsored two Family Sets (4 tickets each) to two winners. Tickets will be for the 30 April (Sun), 10.30am. Please make sure you are able to attend the show on this date and time before taking part in the giveaway.

To take part, all you have to do is leave a comment below, along with your email address, telling me which of the three characters you like the best, and why. Please submit your entry by 14 April (Fri), noon.

 

Terms & Conditions: The winning entry will be selected at random from all qualifying entries using Random.org. Incomplete entries will be disqualified. The winner will be announced here in the comments section of this post, and will be contacted via email.  The winner will have 24 hours to respond, failing which another winner will be selected. To be fair to all giveaway participants, if it turns out that the winner is unable to make it for the performance on the stated date and time, please let me know as soon as possible so that I can pick another winner quickly. Tickets need to be collected from iTheatre’s office. 

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The Ant and the Grasshopper by iTheatre is back after a sell-out run in 2014. You may be familiar with this tale, which is actually pretty short in its original form, about a hardworking ant who prepared for the winter and a lazy grasshopper who whiled away his time only to regret when winter came.

Image may contain: flower

iTheatre has put a refreshing spin on the story that at the same time doesn’t stray too far from the original.  They managed to draw out valuable lessons for children (and adults) to learn from. Lessons that are perfect for the start of the school year, as we found out when we caught the show over the weekend.

More than just a re-telling of the tale extolling the virtues of hard work and planning ahead, iTheatre’s version of The Ant and the Grasshopper was an engaging performance that brought home the lesson of how there is a time and place for everything. Most prominent was how there is a time for work, and a time for play.

Actually, at that point I thought they took all the words out of my mouth. It sounded like what I have been repeating to the boys, especially recently. Asher and I looked at each other at the same time, and it was like a moment of enlightenment. “Ooohh! It’s not just Mummy saying these things.” So spot on.  I hadn’t expected them to lay out the lessons so plainly, and it was perfect. Thank you iTheatre!

Ms Fizzbuzz, Ant, and Grasshopper (Photo credit: iTheatre)

They presented a balanced point of view though. I liked how even though Ant was so hardworking and shown to be more than prepared for winter, Ant acknowledged that she could also learn something from Grasshopper. There was value in slowing down and indulging in creative pursuits. I guess being in the arts industry, iTheatre can’t quite diss the pursuit of the arts can they?

The loggerheads

Ant and Grasshopper always at odds with each other (Photo credit: iTheatre)

Then there were the smaller lessons that were peppered throughout. The advice to listen to words of warning, rather than learning the hard way; that you can prepare for eventualities or events even if you haven’t encountered them before; that time passes more quickly than you think. The many parallels to our home life popped into my head immediately.

Nessa the caterpillar, Grasshopper, and Ant (Photo credit: iTheatre)

Nessa the caterpillar, Grasshopper, and Ant (Photo credit: iTheatre)

Most importantly, I think the message on being forgiving and compassionate came through. In the original tale, Grasshopper died lamenting his foolishness at not being better prepared for winter. The scene at the end is bleak. A grasshopper dying of hunger while watching the well-prepared ants sharing food amongst themselves. In this version of the tale, the Bees showed compassion and convinced their friend, Ant, to care for Grasshopper and not just stand by and say “I told you so”. Sure, she was right, but that didn’t mean she shouldn’t also have a heart to care for Grasshopper now that he was clearly in need. It’s a good message for the kids to be kind even to those they may not like, or who aren’t always kind to them in return. If someone is in need, we should step forward and help.

To help or not to help? (Photo credit: iTheatre)

To help or not to help? (Photo credit: iTheatre)

Besides Ant and Grasshopper, there were also two busy(body) Bees, a timid caterpillar, and one very fashion-minded ladybird. The kids loved Nessa, the caterpillar who was afraid of change. She was such an endearing character, and the lesson she learnt in the story was a good one for kids – that change can be good. Nessa was played perfectly by Safia Hanifah, who also took on the role of Ms Fizzbuzz. I loved how she gave Nessa and Ms FizzBuzz such distinct personalities and movements, to the point that a friend of mine didn’t realise the two roles were played by the same person!

Lady Coco, the over-the-top insect version of Lady Gaga, was also a hit. You will be added to her legion of fans once you meet her.

Lady Coco (Photo credit: iTheatre)

iTheatre has come up with a really good production. A wonderful set that showed the changing of the seasons, great costumes (I kept admiring the headpieces), an excellent cast, and a good storyline to boot. Those more critical may find that the morals of the show were put across too blatantly, but I thought that it was good for my kids, at least, because it caught their attention and made them remember it better.

Initially the boys were asking why we were watching the show when they already knew the story, but by the end of the show they were saying how much they enjoyed it!

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Friends stick together in tough times (Photo credit: iTheatre)

The Ant and The Grasshopper is a 50 minutes musical is suitable for both young and old. Get your tickets here!

Ant and The Grasshopper
Date: 18 Feb to 19 March 2017
Venue: SOTA Drama Theatre, 1 Zubir Said Drive, Singapore 227968

 

***SUPER FLASH GIVEAWAY***

iTheatre has generously offered a family packed of 4 tickets each to two readers of this blog!
The tickets are for 25 Feb, Saturday, 11am. Please make sure you are able to attend the show before taking part in this giveaway.

To take part in this giveaway please do the following by 23 Feb (today!) 2359:
1. Like iTheatre’s Facebook page
2. Leave a comment in the blog post telling me the title of your favourite Aesop’s Fable
3. BONUS: If you can tell me Lady Coco’s (the ladybird) full name, you will get an extra 2 entries. She mentions her name in the promotional video below (around 1:38).

Good luck!

Terms & Conditions: The winning entry will be selected at random from all qualifying entries and the winner will be announced here in the comments section of this post, and will be contacted via email.  The winner will have 24 hours to respond, failing which another winner will be selected. Tickets will be available for collection on the day itself at the performance venue.

This video is from the 2014 production.


Disclaimer: We were provided one family package of four tickets for the purchase of this review. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions are mine. 

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Romeo & Juliet

It was a first! The first time that the grandparents had all three kids over at their house for a sleepover. And it was their idea!

With the kids well taken care of, Jon and I were free to enjoy a night out at the park.

We attended SRT’s Romeo & Juliet at Fort Canning. This is SRT’s ninth production of Shakespeare in the Park, and this year’s coincides with the 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare. 600x400 crop

Having gone for previous Shakespeare in the Park events, and being wowed by Merchant of Venice the last time, I had high expectations for this show.

The set was a modern maze of metal, and stained glass windows echoed the Catholic context in which this play takes place. There were no period costumes as everything was set in modern times.

I thought that the play had a muted start, but it got better and better, and by the end I can safely say it was a really good show. For me, these were the standouts, and the let downs.

There was definitely a whole lot of chemistry between Thomas Pang and Cheryl Tan. They seemed very natural with each other, and that made the attraction between their characters believable. This is probably the most important thing since the whole story revolves around them!

Thomas Pang, Cheryl Tan, Daniel Jenkins in SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - Romeo & Juliet

Romeo & Juliet being married. Palmer’s kiss? (Picture credit: SRT)

Mercutio was excellent. I liked how the character was played by Shane Mardjuki, and I thought it was very interesting how Mercutio was made to become an ominous symbol of foreboding. It was appropriately creepy, and brought a different element to the scenes he reappears in after his death. It was interesting to me that the Apothecary was played by the same actor too, as if Mercutio’s spirit was somehow involved in giving the poison to Romeo.

I had extremely high expectations of Remesh Panicker after his excellent! stupendous! wonderful! take on Shylock. In Romeo and Juliet, Capulet, the character he played, didn’t get as much air time at first. But when Capulet made more appearances, and more of Capulet’s personality was revealed, I was won over. Remesh Panicker is just. so. good. The sideways look, the little wave of the hand, the pause. I’m sure it’s all planned. And it was carried out to perfection.

David Gooderson, Brendon Fernandez, Remesh Panicker in SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - Romeo & Juliet

The Prince warning Capulet and Montague to stop all violence (Picture credit: SRT)

I liked the set too. The lighting could change to remind you of whether you were at the Capulet or Montague’s. It was versatile enough to show all the various scenes, including the iconic climb up the wall by Romeo :) A must! And for me, it was particularly significant seeing the same space being used as the bed where the young lovers spent the night together after their marriage, and later on as the space where they shared their love in death. Things you won’t get from the movie version.

As for what I liked less, I thought it was a strange choice of theme for the party scene. It seemed very out-of-place in the play’s entirety, and felt a bit like they were trying too hard to get the Asian thing in. I think that perhaps they were drawing on the extravagant and extremely kitsch costume party shown in Baz Luhrrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. In the movie it worked. Somehow on stage, without the whizzing camera effects and close-ups, it didn’t quite work so well.

Company in SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - Romeo & Juliet (2)

The strange Asian-mish-mash party (Picture credit: SRT)

I also felt that Juliet was a little too frivolous for my liking at first. She was just a bit too gushy, a bit too exuberant. I guess it really depends on how old you think Juliet is supposed to be. Some say that based on the text, Juliet isn’t even fourteen. In which case, I suppose a gushy, young Juliet could be accurate. I guess I’ve been conditioned to expect a certain kind of Juliet, so it’s really me who needs to break out of it I suppose. However, as the play progressed, I thought Cheryl Tan’s Juliet got better and more nuanced.

Cheryl Tan in SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - Romeo & JulietJuliet dreaming about her Romeo (Picture credit: SRT)

Overall, I loved how the old English text was brought to life in this play. I noticed the words a lot more than I did when watching the movie, and the comical parts stood out more. It was extremely impressive that the actors could remember so much text and spout old English so smoothly! Gosh. I was also reminded that this was truly the original Twilight. When I read Twilight I couldn’t believe how quickly Edward and Bella could fall in love. Well, Romeo and Juliet did it first, and they fell in love even more quickly! See, Shakespeare was wayyy ahead of his time. Romeo and Juliet is an amazing story that’s worth revisiting. When we left the park I was still playing the scenes over in my head, and thinking about the themes that were brought out in the play. I guess Shakespeare does that to you.

SRT’s Romeo & Juliet closes on 22 May, Sun. If you have no plans this weekend, I suggest you check out this performance. It will be an evening well spent!

Tickets are available at the SISTIC website.

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“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Now, even if you’ve never read a single Shakespeare play in your life, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard that line and know where it comes from. It’s one of the best known lines from the famous Romeo & Juliet!

Or if you are from my generation, at the very least you would have flocked to the theatres to watch Leonardo DiCaprio play Romeo in the movie version of Romeo & Juliet.

This April, we are in for a real treat by the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT). As part of their Shakespeare in the Park series, SRT will be staging Romeo & Juliet from 27 April to 22 May 2016. This will be their ninth production of Shakespeare in the Park, and 2016 is an extra special year because this year marks the 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare. To join in on the celebrations commemorating the bard’s life and works, SRT has chosen to stage what is probably Shakespeare’s most well-loved play, one which has had a profound influence on popular culture.

Main Visual (with text)

I love the Shakespeare in the Park series! A picnic with friends and loved ones, lush greenery, and a good performance of the classics. What’s not to love?

SRT’s production of Romeo & Juliet will be a contemporary take on the classic, and if Merchant of Venice was anything to go by, it will be a visually stunning production. The young lovers will be portrayed by Thomas Pang (Tribes) and Cheryl Tan (Beauty World and Red Riding Hood), with Remesh Panicker, Shane Mardjuki and Daniel Jenkins in other leading roles.

Remesh Panicker!! I’m so excited to watch him act, you have no idea. I loved his portrayal of Shylock in Merchant of Venice, and am very keen to see which role he takes up and how he interprets the role.

If you read in the Straits Times, there’s a chance that this might be the last Shakespeare in the Park (sob!). If you’ve never been, you really should go down this year to experience the event for yourself.

TICKET INFORMATION
Prices: From $40 (student and group concessions available)
Venue: Fort Canning Park
Ticketing: SISTIC at 6348 5555 or http://www.sistic.com.sg
Performances: 30th April to 22nd May 2016

 

***Ticket Giveaway***

SRT has generously sponsored 1 pair of tickets for Sun, 15 May 2016, 7.30pm for one lucky reader. To take part in this giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment in the post, telling me who you’ll bring for the show! Remember to leave your email address.

All entries must be in by Fri, 6 May, 6pm. Please make sure that you can make it for that showtime before taking part as the tickets cannot be exchanged for other shows.

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Terms & Conditions: The winning entry will be selected at random from all qualifying entries and the winner will be announced here in the comments section of this post, and will be contacted via email.  The winner will have 24 hours to respond, failing which another winner will be selected. Tickets will be available for collection on the day itself at the performance venue.

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The classic story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff was given a fresh spin by The Little Company last year to rave reviews. It was funny and entertaining for both adults and kids. The show is back again, but this time in Mandarin. After our positive experience watching Goldilocks and the Three Bears in Mandarin, I was very keen to bring the kids for this show too!

The story goes that Three Billy Goats Gruff (affectionately known as “Baby”, “Middle”, and “Big”) are a close-knit bunch who graze happily together with their daydreamy caretaker, Little Bo-Frilly. But one day, it dawns on them that they are in the middle of a horrible drought. As the grounds turn a dreadful shade of brown, they cast their eyes to the hill on the other side of the river covered with seemingly fresh and juicy grass. Unfortunately, in order to cross the bridge to the other side of the valley, they will have to take on a frightening troll whose favourite food is – goats!

We were not disappointed at all! The story was just as funny, but with unique jokes that can only be appreciated in Mandarin. The script was witty, peppered with plenty of puns on similar sounding words. From the introduction of 羊 Meh Meh (a play on 羊妹妹 or little sister goat), the boys were hooked. And when 没脑妹 (Little Bo-Frilly, but the literal translation is No Brain Sister) introduced herself, they were left in stitches. According to 没脑妹, she is carefree and has no worries (烦恼) so she is 没脑妹! 没脑妹 indeed!

羊Meh Meh (Baby), 羊小二 (Middle), and 老大 (Big). Photo credit: SRT.

The best part of the story, I feel, is how they twisted the tale to show that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and we should all learn to better appreciate what we already have. I think this is a good lesson not just for the children, but for me as well. We can never have too many such reminders.

The goats with 没脑妹 (Little Bo-Frilly). Photo credit: SRT.

As with the English production, the songs were wonderful! Catchy and original. They were adapted beautifully into Mandarin. I loved how the actors and actresses sang and spoke in such clear Mandarin, making it much easier for children to understand. They also made sure to not speak too quickly.

To be honest, my eldest was a bit mopey when we first went in. “Why must be watch a Chinese show, Mummy?” (Yes, you can tell he just loves the language). But once the show started, he tried to suppress his smiles initially (since he was supposed to be upset at attending a Mandarin show remember?), and after a while couldn’t help himself and started laughing out loud! Hooray The Little Company! :)

My younger boy totally surprised me. From the start he was immersed in the experience. Responding to the actors, laughing at the jokes that he could understand, and overall had a blast! I was so happy to see him really enjoying himself!

I really like this direction that The Little Company is taking to do Mandarin versions of their shows. They have done quite a few now – The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, The Nightingale, The Ugly Duckling and now The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I think it’s great to have high quality Mandarin productions that the children can enjoy. Would love to see more of such shows!

Who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge! Photo credit: SRT.

If you are looking for a March holiday activity to bring your kids for, I strongly recommend 三只山羊!

The show is on at the DBS Arts Centre until 25 March 2016. Get your tickets through the SISTIC website or call their hotline (6348 5555).

 

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Disclaimer: We were given complementary tickets to watch the show. However, all opinions are my own. 

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The first thing I noticed when we walked into the theatre were the stacks and stacks of books piled up high around the stage. I thought they were simply to set the scene of the library, but they turned out to be so much more. What looked like a simple set surprised the audience with secret compartments and hideaways for all manner of intriguing things. Little ladders, a golden egg, real milk that was poured into a cup, a kite chase that thrilled the children, and a Russian doll style book-in-a-book-in-a-book. There were huge white pages pulled out that became a screen, pop-up houses, and other treasures hidden in those books. I was amazed at how Danyah Miller could keep track of where everything was because she kept moving the books around and restacking them here and there. I passingly thought about how the pre-show setup checklist must be quite detailed.

I Believe in Unicorns 2105 at Vaudeville Theatre Photo Credit: Richard Davenport. richard@rwdavenport.co.uk. 07545642134

Books everywhere (Photo credit: ABA Productions)

I Believe in Unicorns is a tale about Tomas and how he grew to discover the joy, wonder and power of books. While Tomas initially hated reading, dreaming only of playing in the mountain tops, he found his world expand with books and he began to yearn for more and more stories. This culminates in a huge act of bravery that impacts the entire town.

This show was quite unlike other children’s shows I’ve seen before. Most shows pander to the children’s desire for a spectacle – lots of action, songs and dancing. While this production did feature some very well-placed media projections that were so beautiful I felt like I was watching an indie film, the show is really all about good storytelling. A one-woman show, Danyah Miller brings the audience into layer after layer of stories. It’s a bit Inception-like. We start off straightaway immersed in a story. We are members of the town and are attending the re-opening of the town library. Then into the story of Tomas. The story Tomas read. Back out to the story of the Unicorn Lady’s special book. Into the story of the town during the war. Back to the re-opening ceremony. Into the story of the Unicorns.

I Believe in Unicorns_03

The art of storytelling (Photo credit: ABA Productions)

It’s this aspect of quiet, deliberate storytelling that makes the show suitable for older kids who are better able to listen and follow the story. Both my boys were initially wondering when the songs/dance – the action basically – would start. Later I noticed that my 7 year old was still following most of the story, but the 5 year old was not always keeping up. Later I likened the show to a ‘bigger boy’ book that has little, or no, pictures. It’s not so much about showing you a spectacle, it’s about the spectacle in your head, in your imagination. This they understood. Some of their favourite books are wordy with almost no illustrations. The best images are in your head. I’ve never watched a children’s show that quite brought this out so well.

7th August 2014. London, UK. Wizard Presents opens I Believe in Unicorns at Vaudeville Theatre.

Layer upon layer of stories (Photo credit: ABA Productions)

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Pop up books (Photo credit: ABA Productions)

It is a poignant story. At times I sat just consumed by the story, waiting for Danyah to tell me the next line. Feeling the sorrow of the destruction faced by the town and the library. It’s almost not a children’s story, really. It’s not an adult’s story either. It’s a story to be shared by both.

It’s no wonder this show won the Argus Angel Award for Artistic Excellence at the Brighton Festival. Danyah was amazing, pacing the story, working the props, and bringing out the characters.

It ends with the tale of the Unicorns. I may not believe in them still, but I certainly left believing in the power of books and of good storytelling!

KidsFest 2016 is still on with 2 more shows to go – Little Red Riding Hood and Aliens Love Underpants. You can get your tickets from SISTIC. KidsFest 2016 ends on 14 Feb, so hurry!

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Disclaimer: We were offered four complementary tickets for the show. All opinions are my own. 

 

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It’s KidsFest time again! Every January we look forward to the arrival of a slew of quality children’s productions. This year, KidsFest is marking its 5th anniversary by offering six shows over three weeks. The line-up includes modern classics like The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson that have been shown here a few times, as well as a few brand new productions.

 

Production photographs for Room on The Broom,KW & NB Ltd, October 2014

Room on The Broom (Photo credit: ABA Productions)

Most of you would know about The Gruffalo and the Room on the Broom, so let me share with you more on the new productions.

Snow Child is a touching story about a lonely couple who built a small figure from snow, and wished so hard that the strength of their longing brought a magical snow child to life. It tells the story about family, love and the power of dreams.

A spin on the original story, Little Red Riding Hood is by the same creative team behind the hugely popular Hairy Maclary Show that we caught a couple of years back. I can still remember the Hairy Maclary song from the show, how fun it was, and how much the kids loved it. I can only imagine that Little Red Riding Hood would be just as memorable.

Olivier Award nominated Wizard Presents brings best-selling children’s author Michael Morpurgo’s treasured story, I Believe in Unicorns, to life. This is the only show in the line-up that is targeted at kids older than six. It’s probably a good idea to include such as show so that those who attended KidsFest when they were younger still have a show that’s suitable for them! I Believe in Unicorns is a tale of the power of books, and the bravery of a young boy called Tomas. Tomas loves playing in the mountains where he lives and hates reading and school, but his world is turned upside down the day he meets the Unicorn Lady in his local library. This production won an Argus Angel Award for Artistic Excellence at Brighton Festival and it promises to spark the imagination of both young and old.

Wrapping up KidsFest2016 is the wacky Aliens Love Underpants. With a title like that, I’m sure it’s going to be popular with the kids. Based on the story by Claire Freedman, Aliens Love Underpants is a zany and hilarious tale about Aliens who, well, love underpants! Except there are no underpants in space, so they come to Earth to steal yours! With stunning effects, madcap action, original music (and lots
of aliens!) this fresh and funny production will delight the whole family. Watch out! You just might laugh your pants off!

Tickets for the various KidsFest performances can be bought through SISTIC through the website or hotline (63485555). Prices range from $42 to $62. If you purchase tickets for two or more shows, you eligible for further discounts. A 10% discount is applicable when you book two shows and a 15% discount when you book three or more. You can also show your purchased tickets or ticket stubs at any SISTIC outlet to receive a 10% discount on additional tickets.

What are you waiting for? Go get some tickets now! They are selling out fast!

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*This post contains affiliate links.

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There are the old classics like The Enormous Turnip, Little Red Riding Hood, Gingerbread Man, and the children’s stories of that era. But there are some new classics that every child should read. To me, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson definitely makes the list as a modern classic. It is such a fun read for both kids and parents – so important when your kid makes you read it again and again.

The latest to join in on the Gruffalo fun is Alyssa. She loves it! Sometimes she calls herself the Gruffalo, sometimes she says she’s the mouse and daddy is the Gruffalo. It’s so cute to see her show me her terrible teeth and her terrible claws.

I decided to bring her and Ellery to watch the Gruffalo that was showing at KidsFest2016. I had brought Asher for the show years ago when it first came to Singapore. It was fabulous! The stage production brought out new aspects of the book that I hadn’t thought of before. I think that is when drama is at it’s best because it should be insightful and give you more than you could have gleaned on your own. Anyway, a while later Forum the Shopping Mall brought in the Gruffalo as well and I had brought the boys to catch that, but Ellery was so young he really doesn’t remember watching it at all.

So off we went for this year’s production of Gruffalo.

The actors have changed, but the magic of the story is the same. And seeing the Gruffalo in person is always such a treat. He looks so squishy and huggable! And thankfully not scary, because I’ve heard of kids who are scared of the Gruffalo in the book. The cast was playful, and there were parts that were improvised and you could see the merriment in their eyes. It’s good when the cast enjoy themselves.

The Gruffalo, the Fox and the Little Brown Mouse

The Gruffalo, the Fox and the Little Brown Mouse*

The show largely follows the book, but they give the Fox, the Owl and the Snake some very interesting personas. My favourite is always the Snake. He is hilariously flamboyant and so full of himself. I love that the same actor plays all three predators because you can see how well the actor switches roles and gives each character a unique feel. It’s more than just a costume change!

Most of the kids know the book so well they were yelling out lines when the actors feigned ignorance. The favourite is of course the mouse’s line, “I’m going to have tea with a…a…”

“GRUFFAAALLLOOO!!” roar the children.

The Gruffalo has his snack...or does he?

The Gruffalo has his snack…or does he?*

 

Twit Twoo! Mr Owl in his treetop house

Twit Twoo! Owl in his treetop house*

Alyssa and Ellery definitely enjoyed the show, and we came back to more G-g-g-gruffalo at home!

There are many more interesting shows that are on at KidsFest2016. Check them out here!

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Disclaimer: This is an unsolicited review. We purchased our own tickets for the show.

*Photo credit: ABA Productions

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The good folks at The Little Company have outdone themselves! What a treat it was to catch Treasure Island!

treasureisland_A2 FA

Even though I was confident that the story alone would make this an interesting show, I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical about the lead role of this classic tale being taken on by a female. And I was wondering how they were going to bring the audience onto the ship, the Hispaniola. But my concerns were unfounded and the show was superb!

The kids were very excited to go for Treasure Island and had re-read their Treasure Island book in anticipation of the show. Even Alyssa was familiar with the words ‘Treasure Island’ after I read to her A Shapes Primer: Treasure Island a few times. On the day itself they even dressed to the theme.

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Their Treasure Island inspired t-shirt designs on their Tangram Tees

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A spot of Tasty biscuit sword fighting during the interval

The kids were completely absorbed by the show, and there were many humourous parts sprinkled here and there to lighten the story. They were especially tickled by the O’Brien and how he described his abilities and why he should be brought along for the voyage. He was the character that provided the most laughs. Even after we went home they were singing his “I have hands, I am strong” song.

Dwayne Lau, Ann Lek and Mitchell Lagos in TLC's Treasure Island

(L to R) Long John Silver, Jim Hawkins and O’Brien

It’s hard to say which was the main highlight – the cast, the songs or the set, because they were all so good!

The cast featured familiar faces that we had seen in other performances, and I was happy to see them thrown together in this show. In fact, several of them were my favourite actors from separate productions, so this was really a high powered cast that was put together for Treasure Island. Together they made a great team and each played their characters (some of them taking on multiple roles) with such aplomb.

Tan Shou Chen, Ann Lek and Erwin Shah Ismail in TLC's Treasure Island

Treasure!

The songs were fabulous! How else can I describe this? You really got to listen for yourself. “Life on the Sea” was beautifully arranged, and there was the wonderful number “The Coconuts and Me” by Ben Gunn (played by Kimberly Chan). I would consider purchasing a copy of the CD if there was one on sale!

I loved the sets too, especially the ship. You really felt like you were on board the ship with them. At one point one of the characters threw something overboard, and I expected to hear a splash! That’s how well they brought you into the story! From the Admiral Benbow Inn, to the ship, to an island filled with coconut trees, the sets were all very well done.

Dwayne Lau, Mitchell Lagos, Ann Lek, Erwin Shah Ismail, Tan Shou Chen and Kimberly Chan in TLC's Treasure Island

Just look at that gorgeous set! And the lovely costumes!

The show ends on a positive note with the power of friendship to make things family friendly, and it was good for the kids to see how someone can turn over a new leaf. It ends on a high, and you leave feeling extremely satisfied.

Erwin Shah Ismail. Kimberly Chan, Dwayne Lau, Ann Lek, Mitchell Lagos and Tan Shou Chen in TLC's Treasure Island

Enemies turned friends

There are only a few days left (the show ends its run on 13 Dec), and if you haven’t already caught the show, I highly highly recommend it. It is probably my favourite show by The Little Company so far!

Tickets are available through the SISTIC website and the SISTIC hotline (63485555).

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Disclaimer: We were given 4 complementary tickets to watch the show, but all opinions are my own. 

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One morning I woke to find Asher engrossed in the first book of Harry Potter. I wasn’t quite sure what to think, and wondered if it was a bit too dark and scary for him. After assuring me that it really was okay and not too scary*, he promptly said, “Petrificus totalus! Mummy you cannot move anymore!” Followed by gleeful laughter.

In the days that followed he would burst into the house when he came home from school and cast the body bind spell on Ellery who gamely froze up each time. We decided that a kiss would remove the spell and I managed to save Ellery for a few days. That was until Asher came home and put the body bind spell on both Ellery and I. Yes, during that period it was not safe to be in our house at 7.10pm everyday.

Imagine Asher’s excitement when I told him we would be going for a workshop where he could design his own spells!

We were invited to Spell CraftINK, a creative writing workshop for children by Monsters Under The Bed (MUTB). INK stands for Imagination N’ Knowledge, and INK Workshops are three-day creative writing programmes that stimulate children’s imagination and passion for writing. Participants engage in role-playing, group discussions, and physical activities that expand their creative space. Each INK Workshop has a unique theme, from zombies and Greek mythology, to investigation and in this run, magic!

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Monsters Under The Bed

The fun started even before the first day of the workshop. We received an email from Monsters Under The Bed a week before the workshop with a letter from Professor Double-X, the Principal of the Mundane School of Monsters and Magic. In it, we were told that Asher was provisionally accepted into the Mundane School of Monsters and Magic because he displayed some innate magical ability. As a result, he was invited for a trial course to assess his capabilities at wielding his latent magical powers. Depending on his performance, he would either be accepted by the school or rejected. We learned that ordinary non-magical people were known as Mundanes, and Mundane children, Munlings.

Along with the letter came a sheet giving detailed explanations of the different types of magic: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Chaos. We were told each Munling had an affinity with a particular type of magic depending on their month and year of birth. Asher was so excited to discover one of his affinities was Fire magic because it is the magic of destruction. Uh huh. Like, so happy. Metal was his other affinity and he thought that was cool too since it was the magic of transformation.

Professor Double-X had tasked them to start thinking up spells related to their affinities in preparation for the Munling trial course. Munling Asher (with sidekick Munling Ellery) plunged into the pre-workshop activity with so much excitement that I regretted telling them about it just before bedtime. Even after lights out they kept talking in the dark about the spells they wanted to create. I had to go in to cast the powerful, “OR ELSE” spell to make them sleep.

Spell CraftINK!

Spell CraftINK!

The day of the workshop was one of those rare days that I didn’t have to nag at the boys to get out of the house. The children met Professor Double-X, an artificial human that did not possess any imagination. This was unusual because only those who had imaginations could cast spells. So even though she was the principal of the Mundane School of Monsters and Magic, she could not cast any spells! She spoke in a robotic voice from the moment she introduced herself, and I wondered if she was going to continue to do so the entire time. Halfway through the day one of house masters cast a spell on her to let her speak normally, but you gotta give her credit for staying in character though!

The excitement of all the children was palpable, and they sat with rapt attention as Professor Double-X introduced the different houses and their unique characteristics. The kids were sorted into houses (which corresponded roughly with their age groups), and met their house masters. Asher was in the youngest group, called Muse house, and he was thrilled because one of the main types of magic used by this house was, you guessed it, Fire magic!

On the pretext of thinking up some magic, the kids were led through some warm-up activities to get them primed to think out-of-the-box and be totally free to dream up anything they wanted. This then led nicely into the process of ‘scribing’ their spells. They had to come up with one of each type of spell, and give details like what words to say, what the effects of the spell are, how widespread its effects were, and how long those effects lasted for. Through the process of scribing, the children learnt how to systematically develop their ideas, building on it bit by bit. They were encouraged to be as detailed as possible, as that would lead to more powerful magic.

All the kids plunged into the activity, and even Asher eagerly scribbled away at the table, writing down his ideas for one spell after another. Normally it’s very hard to get him to write if it’s not for school work, but here he was eagerly doing so!

First activity to warm up

First activity to warm up

Kids taking turns to tell their house master what they wrote

Kids taking turns to tell their house master what they wrote

When everyone had scribed all their spells, the house masters demonstrated how the different spells could be used by having a duel! They picked various spells from the kids and used them on each other to the kids delight. Turning everyone into rabbits, shooting fireballs, creating monsters, blasting zaps…the kids had such a good time feeding the house masters more and more spells to use.

A duel!

A duel!

The highlight of the day came when the kids could exchange the ‘essence tokens’ they had earned through the course of the day for a magic wand! Asher took this very seriously and really studied all the wands before picking his. I must say the facilitators really put in a lot of effort to make each wand unique – every single wand was handcrafted with a different style!

The school store

Brisk business at the school’s store

Hand-crafted wands

Hand-crafted wands

Selecting his wand

Selecting his wand

Using the wand straightaway!

Using the wand straightaway!

Playing spell tricks on their house master

Playing spell tricks on their house master

The kids were tasked to go back and work on their spells some more because they would need them the following day.

Day 2 was an action-packed day with lots of magic flying around everywhere! First though, the kids walked into the room to find a warning message written in…blood? From who? Who wanted the Munlings to leave? The mysterious writer left no clue, so the kids had no choice but to move on with their Munling training.

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Who wants the  Munlings gone?

There was to be a tournament among the houses to see which house could get past all the magical protective layers of the opponent’s house and retrieve an orb in order to control the opponent’s house pet. Not your average pet please, but a dragon phoenix, a shape-shifting cat, and a zombie mermaid. The houses split up to discuss their defenses and build their imaginary fortresses. I appreciated how the facilitators made sure to let each kid contribute ideas so that they all felt included in the process, no matter how wacky the idea. The facilitators really listened, and where needed they made suggestions to tweak some of the ideas to better suit the story.

Gathering ideas from the children of Muse House

Gathering ideas from the children of Muse House

Planning the layout of the Muse House dungeon

Planning the layout of the Muse House

Once all the houses had built their imaginary dungeons, the tournament commenced! The houses went to each other’s dungeons to try and break in using the spells they developed previously. The opponent’s house master acted as the story master, telling them what was happening and the obstacles they encountered. The kids would then have to agree on the best course of action to tackle the hurdle. Teams were awarded extra points for active participation and cooperation.

So much excitement, so much drama and magic, and lots of ideas tossed about! The facilitators were really excellent. They encouraged all the children to speak up and share their ideas, they made sure everyone was listening to the idea, and after hearing a few options, they let the children decide what they felt was the best decision. Sometimes the decision led to them overcoming the obstacle, sometimes it didn’t and the kids would go back to discussing options again. The tournament took up the rest of day 2, but the kid’s energy levels did not wane. They were so eager to infiltrate the opposing house’s fortifications, and cheered when they finally retrieved the orb!

Thinking of various ways to combat Minerva and Metis House's obstacles

Thinking of various ways to combat Minerva and Metis House’s obstacles

Altogether

So many eager hands wanting to share their ideas

The final day was less dramatic, but was very useful for consolidating all the ideas and stories the kids had created and role-played the day before. Day 3 was spent writing down their experience of breaking into one of the opposing house’s dungeons. They had to write down how they got past at least two of the obstacles in as much detail as they could.

Professor Double-X telling the kids what to do for the writing activity

Professor Double-X speaking to the kids before they started writing

You would have thought that the kids wouldn’t been so interested in day 3’s activities, but the whole room was filled with the quiet buzz of kids writing, thinking aloud to themselves, double-checking with each other what had happened at a particular battle, etc. I was completely floored by the amount that Asher wrote. I have never in my life seen that boy write so much. And with such neat handwriting to boot. His school teacher has mentioned how his handwriting needed a lot of work. She would have been so impressed with him! Seriously, even the spacing between words and letters was good! I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was clear to me that when a piece of work was important to him ( and I made a mental note about how important school work was to him…) he can do things very neatly and nicely. Ok, on the bright side, at least I know he’s capable of it :)

Helping some kids recall the details of the adventure they went through the day before

Helping some kids recall the details of the adventure they went through the day before

Totally engrossed in the writing process

Totally engrossed in his work

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Shockingly long (and neat) piece of work

The kids then compiled their spells and stories into a little booklet that they could bring home. There was also the final tally on the house points, and Asher’s Muse house won!

Putting everything together into a book

Putting everything together into a book

Muse House celebrating their win!

Muse House celebrating their win!

And then, the grand finale! I was revealed that one of the house masters wanted to shut down the school because he didn’t believe Munlings should learn magic. He wanted to finish off Professor Double-X! Oh no! The Professor couldn’t defend herself because she couldn’t cast magic! What now? All the kids whipped out their wands and started casting spells to try and defeat the house master, but he deftly overcame them all. Until someone hit on the idea of giving Professor Double-X the gift of imagination! Now able to cast spells, she put a powerful spell on the house master and defeated him!

All the kids casting spells to save Professor Double-X

The kids casting spells to save Professor Double-X

The kids left the workshop still yammering away about the spells, the stories they wrote, how they defeated the bad house master, and playfully putting spells on each other. Suffice to say that they had a blast.

If there was one thing I thought could improve the workshop further, it would be for the facilitators to perhaps talk a little bit more explicitly about writing techniques, perhaps on the last day. I believe they were trying to let the children absorb the techniques on their own, which is fun but it’s uncertain whether the children know what techniques they have learned from the workshop. While it could be useful to state the purpose of the activities, even in passing, so that the kids understand how what they are doing could relate to future writing activities, I can see how that could interrupt the flow of the activities and dampen the momentum. Perhaps what can be done is for the facilitators to sum up the techniques learned on the final day before or after the kids get down to writing their stories (before as a guide to their writing, or after to summarise the key takeaways).

Nevertheless, it was a very good workshop indeed. Asher was very proud of the story he wrote and eagerly showed it to Jon at night. The workshop succeeded in showing Asher that he capable of writing longer stories and that story writing is fun. I hope this translates to more interest in writing in school, and neater handwriting too! If nothing else, it was really a lot of fun and Asher had a great time at Spell CraftINK! He’s already looking forward to joining another INK workshop in the year end holidays!

Munlings with Professor Double-X and the house masters

Munlings with Professor Double-X and some of the house masters

The cast of Monsters Under The Bed

The cast of Monsters Under The Bed

Monsters Under The Bed are organising two more workshops at the end of this year. HowlINK run from 25-27 November and has a spooky werewolf mystery theme, while INK to the Void runs from 14-16 December and had to do with space adventures (the new Star Wars film is opening afterall).

***Up for Grabs***

MUTB are generously offering three 10% discount vouchers for three readers for the upcoming HowlINK. It will be a case of first come first served, so hurry and be the first three to leave a comment below! All you need to do is leave your name, email, and say “Aaaahhhwwwwooooooooo!”
HowlINK Poster copy

You can register for the workshops online, call them at +65-61004363, or email them directly at riza@mutb.com.sg.

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Disclaimer: Asher was given a complimentary invitation to attend this workshop, but all opinions are my own. 

For the discount voucher, winners will be contacted by email to confirm their win and must respond within 24 hours, failing which, the next person in line will be given the voucher instead.
*After discussion with the hubby, we’ve drawn the line at book 1. Asher is clamouring after book 2, but he has been told to wait and not borrow it from the school library even if it was available. General consensus among those I’ve asked is that book 2 onwards is too dark for kids his age.

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