KidsFest 2014 – A Preview

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J with King Henry VIII and Little E with KidsFest cupcakes!

Last weekend, we were very privileged to be invited to attend a sneak peak of the upcoming KidsFest 2014, which is an annual theatre festival (organised by ABA Productions) that showcases the top theatrical productions in children’s theatre.

KidsFest has been running in Singapore since 2012 and the upcoming season is going to be the biggest one yet, with nine different stage shows spread over two venues. All the productions in the 2014 season (which will run from 15 January – 9th February 2014) are adapted from popular children’s novels or books and have had highly successful, sell-out performance tours. Judging from J and Little E’s reactions to the preview, I think that any kid will be superexcited to see their favourite storybook characters come to life!

There will also be opportunities for backstage experiences and Q&As (with KidsFest+) where fans can interact with the cast and directors, which I think is a great way for children to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes!

The line up of performances in 2014 looks really good, and I’m particularly interested in the production of We’re Going on A Bear Hunt, which is supposed to be a wonderful, interactive, musical experience. That was one of J’s very first books and it’s a family favourite, so I’m really looking forward to seeing it!

The KidsFest party started off with a meet-and-greet with King Henry VIII from Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors. The Horrible Histories book series by Terry Deary is such a fun way to introduce the subject to kids, and I’m not surprised that it has evolved into a BBC TV series and a series of live musicals. I was agog with anticipation, waiting for King Henry VIII belt out one of the songs from the play (or the BBC adaptation), but he was only there to give us all the royal wave and handshake. I can’t believe he flew in all the way from the UK just for that!

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Little E and J get gussied up for the party

After stuffing their little faces with KidsFest decorated cupcakes, Little E and J both made a beeline for the face-painting booth. Little E had flowers and hearts painted on her hands and face, which she seemed very pleased with, whilst J opted for to have a radioactive spider painted on his arm. Once they had their warpaint on, they were both ready to party!

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Gruffalo Games with Gemma from Faust!

The kids were then treated to a round of rowdy games with Gemma, the programme coordinator from the youth drama school, Faust!  J and Little E warmed up to Gemma straight away and were soon giggling and wiggling with delight.

After this, they all sat down on cosy cushions for a lovely storytelling session, where Gemma read The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson. This is the sequel to the best-selling children’s classic, The Gruffalo, which is about a tricksy little mouse who fools hungry predators away with tall tales of the monstrous Gruffalo.

I personally prefer The Gruffalo’s Child, which I think has a much sweeter storyline of how the Gruffalo’s Child ventures into the woods in search of the fabled Big Bad Mouse and meets lots of other creatures along the way. My children really enjoy both books, having received them as gifts from their grandparents, so I can imagine that they would also enjoy watching the stories come to life in the stage performances!

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Storytelling Time: The Gruffalo’s Child

The highlight of the party was when The Gruffalo’s Child actually entered the room to say hello to all the children. She (together with King Henry VIII) had flown in from the UK especially to meet the kids, who were all stunned into awed silence by her sudden appearance, with their bright eyes getting rounder and rounder as she made her way around the room. The Gruffalo’s Child showed us her little Stick-friend and sang us a very nifty little ditty from the musical adaptation which was met with enthusiastic applause.

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Growling with the Gruffalo’s child (and Stick!)

I really liked the Gruffalo’s Child’s costume, which had all the relevant elements of a Gruffalo from the terrible claws and purple prickles on her back. Character costumes have really come a long way since the massive plush cartoons with perpetually open mouths!

Little E kept whispering in my ear that she wanted to go up to The Gruffalo’s Child to give her a cuddle…but she got so nervous and tongue-tied when she got close that all she could do was peer shyly up at her!

Finally, after watching some of the other children taking photos with The Gruffalo’s Child, Little E was encouraged to give a Great Gruffalo Growl!

GRAARRRRRR!

By the way, not all the shows are going to be aimed at pre-schoolers, although most of them are suitable for kids aged 3 and above.

The two Horrible Histories stage plays (Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians) are probably better for primary school-aged children and if you enjoyed the movie, War Horse, you’ll probably love the inspiring play, Private Peaceful, which based on another Michael Murpurgo children’s novel about the First World War. Private Peaceful is recommended for slightly older children (the guide says 8 years old and up) who are more likely to appreciate its wit and intensity.

If you’re interested in one (or more) of the KidsFest 2014 performances, tickets are on sale now at any SISTIC outlet with prices ranging from S$35-62. There’s also a 10-15% discount if you use your VISA card or if you book more than one show!

For more information on the shows, you can also visit the Kids Fest website here.

(Thanks to Emily Cham and the PR Team from Asia PR Werkz for inviting us and Heather Riley of ABA productions for hosting the party!)

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