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The kids walked in expecting to see the set all ready and the show about to start, but they were in for a surprise. What they walked in upon was the sight of the stage in a state of undress, with boxes and other things scattered across the stage, and stage hands busy with their various tasks.

What was going on? Were we in the right theatre? Did we get the venue or time wrong?

Have we come to the right show? Catching a glimpse of the backstage action (Photo credit: iTheatre)

Turns out, it was iTheatre‘s innovative way of giving kids (and their parents) a glimpse into unseen aspects of theatre. Those stage hands? They were really the actors taking on the role of stage hands. They were actors pretending to be stage hands who were pretending to be actors. I thought that was quite an amusing twist on itself.

The twist went further when one of the backstage crew said they were in the midst of preparing for the show, Poultry Tales! What a minute, weren’t we already watching it?

I had been wondering how iTheatre would weave the three different tales into a single, coherent show. Using the premise of the backstage crew secretly trying on costumes and living out their acting dreams, iTheatre managed to tie the three tales together quite well.

Maggie, the stage manager, and her assistant take pains to train their newbie interns the rudiments of backstage work. In the process, the audience is treated to the three tales, and introduced to a whole bunch of terms that performers use for the various items found around the stage – fly bar, cyclorama, flat, legs (no, not the legs we walk on), hand prop, etc. I thought it was wonderful to introduce these terms to the kids. I especially loved how as each part of the stage was introduced, the stage set slowly came together to be nicely put together, as one normally sees it when walking into the theatre. It’s not everyday that you get to see a stage set get pieced together right before you eyes.

Maggie (in red), her assistant (in brown), and the intern. (Photo credit: iTheatre)

Anyway, the flow from pre-show segment to the actual show was so seamless that my boys weren’t quite sure that the show had actually started already! I had to whisper to them that the show had already started! I guess they were expecting the actors to don more elaborate costumes and such (the actors were wearing simple overalls in different colours). That was one of the reasons why I liked the first story – Chicken Licken – the best. It showed the kids that all you need to portray a character was just a mask. And with just a change of mask, you can change your character. The four actors played six characters! Some characters had to switch between their masks and were basically talking to themselves :)

Acting out Chicken Licken with just masks! (Photo credit: iTheatre)

More than that though, the story-telling for Chicken Licken was fast-paced and entertaining! From the time the show ended, and every day since, one of my kids will say, complete with exaggerated actions, “I saw it with my eyes, I heard it with my ears, and some of it fell on my tail!”

In the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs, while I thought the gentleman took a little too much pleasure in thinking about how to murder the poor innocent goose, it did drive home the lesson that we should not be consumed by greed. In terms of props, the kids were tickled at how the goose spewed ribbons instead of blood, when she was killed. Though the lead up to the kill was filled with tension, the end was humourous without losing the plot.

Evil plans are a-hatching in the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg (Photo credit: iTheatre)

The final story was about The Little Red Hen. Her friends all swore to be there for her whenever she needed their help, but whenever she asked for it, they came up with one excuse or another and ran away. She did everything on her own, and enjoyed the fruits of her own labour. Her friends on the other hand, learnt that they should keep their promises all the time, and not pick and choose when to keep it. I also tend to think that for this story, the moral really is that if you want something done, you just got to do it yourself. Hopefully we have friends who are more dependable that we can count on of course!

Little Red Hen and her unreliable friends (Photo credit: iTheatre)

My three-year old may not have understood the backstage bit, but she definitely enjoyed the stories told, and had a good time laughing at the funny segments (and getting appropriately worried for the goose when it was going to get killed). The boys were better able to appreciate the backstage elements, and they certainly enjoyed the story-telling as well.

Poultry Tales in on until Sunday, 14 May. Do hurry and get your tickets from SISTIC! Enjoy a post-exam treat for all the family, or end the weekend with a Mother’s Day outing to the theatre. Good lessons taught, lots of backstage things to see and learn, and overall an enjoyable show.

Don’t miss your chance to catch iTheatre, because this might very well be their last production. They have unfortunately lost their source of funding, and will not be able to continue for the time being. iTheatre is seeking funding, and if you or others you know are able to help, please do give them your support. You can find out more about how to help iTheatre here.

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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.

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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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We went to catch Aesop’s Fables by iTheatre with Ellery and Alyssa. I’m so glad we did because it was a thoroughly enjoyable show!

There are 8 stories and it was a good selection of familiar and less familiar tales, all with good morals that children should learn about. It led to some meaningful discussions on why “a bird is more than it’s feathers (in the Jay and the Peacock) and what it means, and why you shouldn’t give up your friends for your enemies (The Sheep and the Wolf).

I thought it was a good idea to use the context of a travelling performance company as it gave scope for the actors to take on many different characters (as would need be the case since they are telling many fables…). I also liked how the actors subtly brought home the message of using your imagination. In the show, the person in charge of the travelling company’s costumes misplaced them, and so for some characters the actors had to use everyday objects as props and costumes. The boys are familiar with this concept. Our dress up box filled with random things is one of the most popular ‘toys’ in the house. With my old white shirt they have become doctors, astronauts, dragons, kings, knights, Daddy, etc. But it’s always interesting to see new ways to create costumes – like with the sheep! It was so funny! Gloves and yarn on the head! :)

Docile sheep

Docile sheep

There was some audience interaction in the middle which Ellery loved. He wanted very much to go up on stage to be the Wind in the story of The North Wind and the Sun but wasn’t chosen. At the end of the show he asked to try being the Wind and the actors were so kind to oblige :) He was soo happy he declared The North Wing and the Sun his favourite story from the show and was blowing and blowing on the ride home.

So happy to be able to press the horn and be the Wind. Unfortunately covering his face here!

So happy to be able to press the horn and be the Wind. Unfortunately the horn is blocking his face here!

The actors put up good performances, transforming themselves into each new character with ease. I was keen to watch Darren Guo’s performance because I thought he did well in Hop & Honk and was interested to see how he’d do this time. His acting did not disappoint, and he continues to be a versatile actor capable of playing with his voice and manner. Actually, I thought all of them (Darren, Alecia Kim Chua, Elizabeth Loh, Erwin Shah Ismail and Ghazali Musakir ) did well individually and together.

The songs are great (till now I still have the Aesop’s Fable song stuck in my head) and I thought the choreography was good too (gotta love those Sheep!).

Donkey has had enough!

Donkey has had enough!

Androcles and the Lion

Androcles and the Lion

I left the theatre thinking, “iTheatre is getting better”. The last couple of performances have been really good, and Aesop’s Fables, with its timeless stories and lovely songs, is a great show to catch with the children.

Aesop’s Fables run until 21 Mar 2015. Grab your tickets and go support local theatre!

Aesops’ Fables is show at the Jubilee Hall at Raffles Hotel. Ticket are available via SISTIC.

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I received three complementary tickets for the show. All opinions are my own.

 

 

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There were some books I remember reading over and over again as a kid, and my two small books containing a selection of Aesop’s Fables were definitely among them. There are about 665 fables in total, dating back 2,600 years. I haven’t read them all, but am well acquainted with the more popular stories.

I think my mum gave away those books, but we now still have two thin copies of Aesop’s Fables in our house. These were Jon’s copies from when he was younger and my late mother-in-law kept them, along with some other books, specially for her future grandkids! She would be very happy to know the books have been read repeatedly by the boys.

If you love Aesop’s stories too, you should check out iTheatre’s performance of Aesop’s Fables from 26 Feb to 21 Mar. They show and tell a selection of Aesop’s most famous stories, along with some lesser known ones, using puppetry, live action and song. The selection will include “The Jay and The Peacock”, “Androcles and The Lion”, “The Lion and The Mouse”, and “The Goose that Laid The Golden Eggs”.

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Their 2009 production of Aesop’s Fables played to sold-out audiences, so be sure not to miss it this time around. We really enjoyed iTheatre’s last show, Hop & Honk, and I hope that they’ll put on a good performance again!

Tickets are available from SISTIC.

*** Giveaway ***

iTheatre has kindly sponsored 2 sets of 2 tickets to Aesop’s Fables on Saturday, 7th March 2015 (2.30pm). If you need more than 2 tickets, iTheatre has offered to sell adjacent seats at a discounted rate to the winners.

To qualify for the giveaway, please do these 2 things by 2 Mar 2359hrs (not a lot of time, so don’t put it off till later!):
1. Leave a comment below on which of Aesop’s Fables is your favourite and why
2. Share this Facebook post with at least one other person.

Don’t forget to leave me your email address so I can contact you if you win!

The winning entries will be selected at random from all qualifying entries. The winners will be announced here in the comments section of this post, and will be contacted via email.  They 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 30 minutes before showtime. 

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The boys and I went to watch iTheatre’s latest offering, Hop & Honk, at the Drama Centre Theatre. On until 15 Nov 2014, the story weaves two classic fairytales, The Ugly Duckling and The Frog Prince, into one.

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Usually I am wary of theatre companies trying to give their own take on classic stories, but this was done very well. iTheatre extrapolated the story backwards to its origins and gave their take on why the Prince was turned into a frog in the first place, and how the swan’s egg ended up in the duck’s nest. The story flowed smoothly with good pacing, the characters were memorable, the music was generally good, there was lots of humour (with some funny references to local issues that would amuse the adults), and strong performances in particular by Ethel Yap who played Cygna the Ugly Duckling.

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Being ridiculed by her duckling ‘siblings’

The prince before he was transformed into a frog by the witch

The Prince Anura before he was transformed into a frog by the witch

I loved how each group of animals was given a distinct style. The frogs were so hilarious! I loved the entire scene with the frogs. The swans were also so amusing with their funny walks, Cantonese accents, and conceited personalities. After the show the boys and I talked like the frogs and walked the swans just for fun. Interestingly the boys’ favourite character was Herodias. For Asher it was because Herodias was such a strong character and had a great costume to boot, for Ellery because of the pranks played on Herodias!

The Frog Prince looking for his family In the pond

The Frog Prince looking for his family In the pond

Funny frogs!

Funny frogs!

Macey & Lacey the busybody swans

Macey & Lacey the vain and busybody swans

Herodias and his two sidekicks

Herodias and his two sidekicks

The songs were generally okay, but there were some really bright sparks like “Different Worlds” and “Travellers” that were very much in the style of Broadway musicals. We are still bursting into the frog’s “Bubbling Up” song every now and then too just because it’s so catchy! It is in singing that the cast really shone. While some of the cast did not always have the best pronunciation and enunciation, their singing voices could not be faulted. Windson Liong especially surprised me, and I think there’s lots more to his voice than he displayed at this show. The other surprise was Darren Guo. I wasn’t liking his portrayal of the duckling too much, but he proved to be a versatile actor giving a fresh take with each subsequent character, and his acting grew on me.

Cygna & the Frog Prince Anura

Cygna & the Frog Prince Anura

Themes of bullying, self-confidence and self-worth stood out strongly. Bullying has been on my mind lately as Asher approaches primary school. I recently heard stories from friends whose kids encounter bullies in school. I hope he will not meet any bullies, and that if he does he will have the wisdom and confidence to know how to protect himself and when to stand up to the bully. I hope he learns that what people think does not define him and it’s what’s on the inside that matters, just as Cygna discovered for herself.

We really enjoyed the show and I think it’s a show worth catching.

Hop & Honk
Date: 29 October to 15 November 2014
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre, National Library
Recommended for: 4 to 18 year olds and families
Duration: 85 minutes plus 15 minutes interval – TOTAL = 100 minutes approximately

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We were offered three complementary tickets for the show. All opinions are my own.

All pictures courtesy of iTheatre.

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The boys have been into dragons since we watched How to Train a Dragon a few weeks ago, so they were quite excited to find out what the performance Round the Moon, Blue the Sky was about when I told them there was a dragon in it.

Round the Moon, Blue the Sky is about how Smallest Dragon, who is always curious about the world, shares her philosophy on life to Look, See, Explore, Discover and Find Your Own Answers.

She meets Leaf, a willing learner, and Twiglet, who was initially less open to new ideas. Twiglet had great difficulty accepting that there are other round things besides the moon, and other blue things besides the sky. Together with Leaf they eventually showed Twiglet how broaden her perspective.

I liked very much the message to kids to always be observant and really see what the world has to offer, that things are often more multi-faceted than we think, to not be so rigid in our approach to learning, and that the answers are all out there – we just need to go and explore! These are good things to learn and I hope my boys remember them!

The audience enjoyed the interactive parts like helping to identify the colours of the leaves and looking for Smallest Dragon. As for my boys, they agreed that their favourite part (and mine too) was the black light puppetry. Smallest Dragon and Leaf explored making various animals with basic shapes like squares, circles and triangles, and the puppetry brought their creations to life. I felt like we were swimming through their imaginations. Nice :)

The costumes, in particular the head-dresses, were very well done! Just something I noticed. Clearly someone put a lot of thought and effort into that.

While I liked the message, I felt that it was put across in a very simple way, which is good for younger kids to understand, but maybe a bit too simple for children 6 years and above. The enunciation was also little unclear at times due to the accents of the actors. This is iTheatre’s first project in partnership with the Asian Alliance of Theatre Festivals for Young Audiences (ATYA), so the actors are from various countries (in this case, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong). I think it’s a great initiative, but perhaps the actors could try to speak a little more clearly so that the kids can better understand the story.

Smallest Dragon (Photo taken from iTheatre’s Facebook page)

After the show we stayed behind to take a picture with the cast members. The actors were very friendly and we had a lovely picture with smiles all around :)

With the cast members

With the cast members

Round the Moon, Blue the Sky is on until 27 July at the Alliance Francaise Theatre. Tickets are available via SISTIC.

 

*We received complementary tickets for the show. All opinions are my own. 

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