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Posts Tagged ‘Kidsfest’

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.

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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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It was Ellery’s turn to go out without Asher, although in his case Alyssa still came along. So it was not quite a one-on-one date.

When I told Ellery about Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo and read the synopsis to him, he was very excited and imagined that he’d see many different types of dinosaurs, afterall the description said we could expect to see an “amazing array of creatures”. He was talking about the show from lunch time, and was bouncing around excitedly before the show.

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It started out promisingly enough with some prehistoric vegetation decorating the stage and the sounds of the forest bringing you into the dinosaur world. The show was delivered in the format of a documentary, with the presenter telling the audience about the different types of dinosaurs that came on stage. They started with a pair of baby Muttaburrasaurus, the dinosaur that at home we joke is the “murtabak-saurus” (murtabak is a type of Indian-Muslim minced meat pancake found in Singapore). I thought it was good how the host gave facts about the dinosaur and invited children up to pat the dinosaurs.

Baby dinosaur (Photo taken from the Dinosaur Zoo Live gallery)

 

I liked seeing the giant dragonfly, Meganeura, because we had read about it in one of the dinosaur stories at home. Ellery was really happy he saw the Meganeura and said he’d tell Asher all about it when he got home. They had several Meganeura flying all about the theatre, and the giant dragonflies landed on the children’s hands and heads, much to everyone’s delight.

Meganeura (Photo taken from the Dinosaur Zoo Live gallery)

 

Next came some Leaellynasaura, which the host consistently mispronounced as “lee-AN-na-saw-ra”. I noted this because when learning about dinosaurs I was particularly fascinated by this species. I thought I might have got the pronunciation wrong but went home to check, and actually even the KidsFest Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo factsheet says it’s “lee-EL-in-a-saw-rah”. It’s a small thing, but if the show aims to give children facts about dinosaurs, I thought the host should have gotten the name right.

A pair of Leaellynasaura (Photo taken from the Dinosaur Zoo Live gallery)

 

From here the show started to get less interesting for me, and from Ellery’s expression, for him too. A fearsome looking dinosaur puppet appeared, and while it looked impressive and served well to add excitement to the show in terms of a scary monster on stage, I felt that the show relied too much on this. The dinosaur, which the host called a T-Rex (more on this later), spent quite a bit of time scaring the audience. Rather than tell the audience interesting facts about the T-Rex, a lot of time was also spent getting children to feed and pat the T-Rex, with lots of false starts and sudden moves to scare the volunteers along the way. Humourous and entertaining, but not very scientific nor educational as the show touted itself to be (“…connecting young audiences to the real science of palaeontology”).

Hugging a 'T-Rex' (Photo courtesy of ABA Productions)

Hugging a ‘T-Rex’ (Photo courtesy of ABA Productions)

A kid did get ‘eaten’ during the show! (Photo taken from the Dinosaur Zoo Live gallery)

 

In fact, that wasn’t a T-Rex at all. The skull structure of the dinosaur was wrong (T-Rex’s heads are much more massive compared to the body), and if you see the photos from the show, the puppet has three claws. Any bona fide dinosaur fan will tell you T-Rexs have only two claws.

Let’s count the claws now, 1, 2, 3… (Photo taken from Dinosaur Zoo Live gallery)

 

The show was supposed to focus on dinosaurs found in Australia, but I guess they were trying to appeal to everyone’s familiarity with the T-Rex. I think it would have been better to stick to Australian dinosaurs so that the show is focused and the audience can learn something new about the less familiar Australian dinosaurs. I suspect that actually the puppet was meant to represent the Australian carnivore, the Australovenator, as this was listed on the KidsFest Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo factsheet. The Australovenator is a medium-sized allosaur, so the puppet would have been more appropriate.

When show ended with the head and neck of the Titanosaur, Ellery was surprised and asked me where the other dinosaurs were. He then said he wished there were more dinosaurs in the show.

Me too.

Indeed, while the show was funny and entertaining, it was not what I had expected based on the show synopsis. Charming, but ultimately disappointing.

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We were given complimentary tickets for the show. All opinions are my own.

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We are fans of the annual KidsFest! and have caught more than a few productions since it started in 2012. Kidsfest! prides itself on bringing in world-class theatre for young people. In the past few years they have brought in high quality stage adaptations of famous children’s stories, and this year’s offerings include the ever popular Gruffalo, The Snail and the Whale, and The Tiger Who Came to Tea. There are also five new shows for the 2015 season – Vile Victorians, Barmy Britain (Part 2), Hugless Douglas, The Princess and the Pea, and Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo.

Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is a particularly interesting offering this year as it is not based on a familiar children’s book. It is a unique performance that allows dinosaur-crazed children to get upclose and personal with an amazing array of creatures from bygone eras, from cute baby dinos to some of the largest carnivores and herbivores that have ever walked the planet! Children will be able to experience these creatures ‘live’ on stage. Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo promises to be a fun and educational performance where children can learn how to feed and interact with Erth’s dinosaurs, and connect with the real science of palaeontology.

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Get up close with the dinosaurs!

I know this is a show that will definitely appeal to the boys, and to any kid curious about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.

**Giveaway**

Just for readers of Unlikely Lady of Leisure, I have a family package of 4 top category tickets up for grabs for Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo on Thursday, 29 Jan, 7.15pm, at SOTA Drama Theatre. The show is recommended for children aged 5 and above.

To qualify for this giveaway, please do the following by 23 Jan, 6pm.
Leave your email address and a comment below stating:
1. The titles of two shows in Kidsfest! 2015
2. Your favourite dinosaur!

RAARR!

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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This is one of my favourite Julia Donaldson books.  It’s witty and catchy, and has a delightful ending.  It’s one of those books that I never tire of reading, which is saying a lot (hands up all those who have heard “Mummy, again!” and wanted to faint).  Knowing the boys like this book too, I went ahead to book tickets for this show and was quite eager to watch it.

KidsFest 2014 - What the Ladybird heard

The performance took an interesting turn at the start, with two of the actors saying they needed the help of some audience members to play the roles of Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len.  Of course the volunteers were planted, but it was quite amusing for the kids I think.

Of the various KidsFest performances we have seen over the years, this is one of my favourite.  I loved how there was so much music making in the show.  The actors themselves played various instruments live on stage, like the violin, flute, drums, etc.  There was also a creative element where the actors had ‘lost’ the animals and needed to make their own from whatever items they could find.  They made the hog from the wheelbarrow, a goose from a watering can, etc.  Asher and Ellery were quite inspired by this and spent the rest of the evening improvising this and that from whatever they could find.  I was really very happy to see that the show had an impact on them.

The best part is, there were many little songs and sound bites that the kids could remember.  There was a theme song from the show that linked with the words from the book, and was set to a catchy tune that the kids can remember.  After the show and even almost a month later, the boys can still remember the song!  Then there was a tune to call out the ladybird, and the sounds that Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len each make when their name is mentioned.

For a festival where tickets are usually very pricey, in my opintion, I think this show was well worth every cent!

A very blur photo of the set before the show started

A very blur photo of the set before the show started

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We watched the KidsFest performance of The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, performed by Tall Stories, when Asher was younger, and again at a free performance at the Forum Shopping Centre.  It was such a wonderful performance, full of humour, lively songs, and fun-filled moments.

I was a bit hesitant to get tickets for the follow-up show, The Gruffalo’s Child, because I thought the book was less interesting than the original.  But the kids were quite interested, and I thought that for completion’s sake we could watch it.   Also, other performances by Tall Stories was very good, so I thought this would be a similarly high-quality production.

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Unfortunately, I was left feeling very disappointed.  This follow-up production was nowhere near as good is the first, and nowhere near as entertaining.  I felt that didn’t develop the storyline as much as they did with The Gruffalo, and the portrayal of the aged characters of the owl, fox and snake were not brought across to full effect.  The set didn’t do much to help either.  It was quite spartan, and I think more could have been done to bring a frosty, wintry forest alive.  Perhaps they were trying to be minimalist about things, but just moving the bare tree trunks around didn’t do much to show that the scene had changed.

There were also no memorable songs or moments.  I don’t think the kids remember anything at all from the show, other than the main storyline, which they know from the book.

And it wasn’t just me who felt disappointed I think.  I could see the boys were fidgety and were losing interest as the show wore on.

I think I could have saved some money on this one.

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