Controlled Crying: An Australian Play

If you’re in Sydney in November (or if you live in Sydney) and are looking to experience Australia’s rich theatrical culture, you might want to check out Controlled Crying at the Beecroft Community Centre from the 7th to the 9th of November.

107180_Flyer_CompressControlled Crying is the product of Australian playwright, Ron Elisha, and tells the story of Libby and Oscar as they spend 27 years raising their daughter together.  It’s a deep and realistic exploration of the roles, rules, joys and sorrows of parenting a child in the computer age.

This play is 100% Australian directed and produced by my good friend and wedding coordinator, Tracey Okebey, whose directorial style (as experienced during the many appointments I’ve had regarding the upcoming nuptials) I can only describe as authoritative, but open to suggestion.

The actors she’s picked for the project are pretty skilled too!  Elizabeth Chambers, who is playing LIbby, is a veteran of community theatre.  A childcare worker by day, astronomer and accountant student by night and performer whenever she’s free, Elizabeth is a bit of a star in the Beecroft community with roles such as The Cat in the Hat in Seussical the Musical and The Witch in Into the Woods.  Plus, she’s also a director herself, having directed and written several pantomimes to date!

David Roberts, the mysterious man playing Oscar, is a prolific Facebook poster and semi-employed teacher who moonlights as a man with a laptop and serious purpose.

Tracey herself is no slouch either.  A veteran of the acting community, she’s directs a large number of plays per year.  According to the status reports I’ve had from her, the performance is in its final stages and coming together well.  She’s working hard to get her actors to delve deep into Libby and Oscar’s unspoken lives to get the strong intensity of emotion that the play requires.  Under her direction, Controlled Crying promises to be an emotionally intense experience.

Controlled Crying will be staged at the Beecroft Community Centre on 111 Beecroft Road in Beecroft on Friday 7th November to Sunday 9th November.  Tickets cost $15 – $20 and can be purchased at here.

Don’t miss it!

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Blunderbus Theatre Company presents How to Catch A Star – A review

Let's catch a star together!

Let’s catch a star together!

We were invited to the opening performance of ‘How to Catch A Star‘ yesterday, performed by the Blunderbus Theatre Company from the UK – and it was bundle of fun from start to finish!

The fun started as we were all getting seated in the theatre before the start of the show. The cast members were already mingling with the kids in the audience, charming each one and learning their names in order to give them a special starry moment by calling out to them during the performance.

Imagine J’s delight when Boy pointed towards him during the show and called him a ‘Lucky Star’! J’s big beaming smile was priceless!

Both J and Little E were absolutely captivated by the adventures of Boy (played by Ben Sbuttoni) and the Invisible Starkeepers, Ariel and Aurora, (played by Emma Hilts and Katie Burchett), as they traipsed across the sea, land, and even outer space on a quest to find a starry friend.

Ben, Emma (who plays the ukulele during the show) and Katie (with her clarinet) had us all giggling with delight with their fun antics and expressive vocal sound effects, adding life to the storytelling which was accomplished using vibrantly coloured Oliver Jeffers-inspired props and puppets. You can really tell from their physicality and energy that the cast members have a real enthusiasm for bringing the magic of theatre to children! (Read my interview with lead actor Ben Sbuttoni here).

The interactive segments during the show are really great for wiggly little preschoolers – but watch out for some light showers during the early and mid-sections of the play. Little E was squealing with laughter during these moments, whilst J took cover underneath his own seat! (The auntie sitting in front of us even got out a handkerchief, knotted at each corner to make a makeshift umbrella-hat, old school style!)

With Boy aka Mr Ben Sbuttoni

With Boy aka Mr Ben Sbuttoni

After the show, the cast members met us all outside for a very quick meet-and-greet…and all the children received stickers and balloons to bring home. What a wonderful end to a really magical afternoon!

‘How to Catch a Star’ will be showing from 24-27 April 2014 at the SOTA (School of The Arts) Drama Theatre and tickets are available at SisticThere are still plenty of tickets left, but I hear that they are selling out pretty fast – so grab yours quick before they are all gone!

KidsFest 2014: We’re Going On A Bear Hunt Live! (A Review)

Michael Rosen has been one of my favourite poets ever since I received a copy of Quick, Let’s Get Out Of Here (I was 8 years old at the time), and discovered that poetry doesn’t always have to have rhymes in it. Discovering the world of free verse really helped me to develop into the pretentious person that I am today – huzzah!

When J was born, one of the first books that I bought for him was Michael Rosen’s We’re Going On A Bear HuntThis story is based on a very old folk song, but Michael Rosen lengthened the adventure to include more varieties of terrain that the explorers have to cover in search of the elusive bear, and he also added a little twist of onomatopoeic, alliterative language which really brings life to the environment.

A wonderful first book

A wonderful first book

With its gorgeous watercolour illustrations by Helen Oxenbury and catchy rhythmic phrases, this little story quickly became one of our favourites. I have read it so many times to both J and Little E over the last 6 years, that we all know it by heart.

When the fine folk behind KidsFest 2014 invited my family to watch We’re Going on a Bear Hunt! live on stage, I was so excited about the opportunity that I grabbed the kids and did a happy dance with them in the living room! Since then, we’ve been reading the story together more often and reciting it in the car on the way to school with all the appropriate sound effects.

We're going to watch a Bear Hunt, It's going to be a great one!

We’re going to watch A Bear Hunt, it’s going to be a great one!

I did not want my kids to think that the stage show was going to visually resemble the paintings in the book, so in order to prepare my kids for the performance, I  showed them the official stage show trailer, which you can see below:

By the way, if you don’t already own a copy of the book, you can get your kids familiarised with the story by letting them watch this brilliant reading of the book done by the author, Michael Rosen. This will help your child anticipate the different elements of the story in preparation for the interactive nature of the play!

Yesterday, we watched the opening performance of We’re Going On a Bear Hunt at The Drama Centre and it was absolutely marvelous! My five year old J was so caught up, he was clapping and frolicking along to the music, laughing his head off. There was plenty of audience participation, which was absolutely brilliant for my wiggly two year old Little E, who even joined in the singing towards the end.

We Are Going On A Bear Hunt - Kenny Wax & Nick Brooke Productions

Uh-uh! A Forest!

The cast retells the story in a creative (and messy!) way with an animated and engaging performance, and the bear’s appearance at the end – although tense and exciting – is still cuddly enough to keep the younger members of the audience from freaking out.

The children were very inspired by the sets and ingenious use of props, and after the show was over, they both immediately started discussing ways they can recreate different scenes at home! I foresee some very messy craft sessions coming up in the following weeks!

What a beautiful day! We're not scared...

What a beautiful play! We’re not scared…

Afterwards, we had the chance to meet the cast during the KidsFest+ autograph session. All of the cast members, Gareth Warren (‘Dad’), Emily Smith (‘Daughter’), Adam Collier (‘Son’) and Ben Harrison (‘Buddy the Dog’) were delightful in person and very patient with all of the children, although there was not much time for the kids to really interact and ask questions whilst being hurried along the queue.

I want to go on a bear hunt AGAIN!

I want to go on a bear hunt AGAIN!

The kids enjoyed themselves so much today, I really wanted to prolong the experience with some related activities and crafts.

Here are some brilliant learning activities that I found for kids who are fans of the book and the live stage performance! (I also think they would come in very handy for anyone planning a Bear Hunt-themed party.)

Just click on the links below to download the free handbook and printables:

1. Bear Hunt Live! Educational Activities and Games

2. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Colouring Sheets

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is currently playing from 23rd – 26th January 2014 at the Drama Centre Theatre. Tickets are available at the box office or via SISTIC.

KidsFest 2014 will running until the 9th February 2014 and there is something for both the tiny tots as well as the older children. I really recommend going to watch We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, but there are plenty of other shows that are worth a look!

Recommended for children aged 2-3 and above:

  1. The Gruffalo: 25 to 26 Jan 2014 at the Drama Centre
  2. What the Ladybird Heard21 Jan to 1 Feb 2014 at the DBS Arts Centre
  3. The Snow Dragon29 Jan to 2 Feb 2014 at the Drama Centre
  4. The Boy who cried Wolf: 31 Jan to 9 Feb 2014 at the DBS Arts Centre

Recommended for children aged 7-8 and above:

  1. Horrible Histories Awful Egyptians31st Jan to 1st Feb at the DBS Arts Centre
  2. Horrible Histories Terrible Tudors1 Feb to 9 Feb at the DBS Arts Centre
  3. Private Peaceful: 22 Jan to 2 Feb at the DBS Arts Centre

KidsFest 2014 – A Preview

henry-viii-horrible-histories-live-bbc

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!

gruffalo-child-games-kids

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!

storytime-faust-aba-productions-kidsfestplus

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.

children-theatre-production-uk

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!)