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Posts Tagged ‘KidsFest2016’

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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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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