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Diary of a Wombat - Monkey Baa Theatre Company

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by Brydie Wright (subscribe)
I'm a children's book author and freelance writer. Check out www.brydiewright.com for more about "Daddy and the World's Longest Poo" and my family lifestyle blogs, articles and book reviews. https://www.facebook.com/DaddyandtheWorldsLongestPoo/
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Beloved Wombat A Hit for Children's Theatre

Engaging wriggly children with live theatre, one of the most immediate art forms, is not an easy task. One of the theatre companies that does it best is Monkey Baa Theatre Company and this year, it will embark on an incredible 59-venue national tour of Director Eva Di Cesare's stage adaptation of beloved Australian picture book, Diary of a Wombat.

Photo credit: Heidrun Lohr.
Monkey Baa hosted a special preview performance at Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre, on 18 March, to kick off the vast national tour. Such is the pull of Monkey Baa and the hold that this classic story has on the hearts of early readers and their parents, it is sure to be a success.

For those of you who have read the book, you will know that protagonist, Mothball, spends much of her week, Monday through to Sunday, doing what wombats love to do sleeping and scratching. When she is not asleep, she is eating and generally causing havoc for the human beings whose house and veggie patch share her home territory.

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The preview performance gave an opportunity for young fans to meet Mothball, the star of the show

Going into this performance, I was curious to see how Monkey Baa would translate this famous tale from picture book format to a stage performance for ages 3 and up. I wasn't the only one. Collective sighs of relief went up at the preview, when actress Penny Cook, one of Monkey Baa's ambassadors, asked parents not to tell their kids to be quiet. She vouched that the wonderful thing about kids' theatre is that kids should not have to be quiet. They should react and get involved and be free of adult constraints. This certainly rang true for the little ones at this performance and at 45mins in length, the show was just the right length for their limited attention spans.

Photo credit: Heidrun Lohr.

Many theatre productions might choose to anthropomorphise animal characters to facilitate the drama but mercifully and masterfully, the team behind the show's concept (Sandra Eldridge, Tim McGarry and Eva di Cesare) have chosen a different tack and it is brilliant. Mothball is brought to life by two incredibly realistic puppets, manipulated by deft performers who double as the human characters in the play. Performers and puppet masters Michael Cullen, Shondelle Pratt and Julia Ohannessian, pull off an incredibly difficult gig; it is authentic and mesmerising viewing for children, not unlike observing real animal behaviours at the zoo.

The professionalism and sophistication of this production shines through in all its elements, from the atmospheric lighting, the clever set, spot on sound engineering and inventive props, not to mention the adept usage of special effects to create a series of wide-eyed moments for the audience.

Photo credit: Heidrun Lohr.

And how exactly do you communicate the movement of a story that is light on direct dialogue? The Director's answer to this is the use of music to maximum effect. Talented cellist, Mary Rapp, provides the soundtrack to Mothball's every move, sound emission and her scuffles with the humans, negating the need for a human narrator in what is essentially a wombat's story.

Photo credit: Heidrun Lohr.
I think, like any art form directed at children, it is important to entertain the adults who accompany them to the performance but ultimately, the main task of children's theatre is to satisfy the needs of the target audience. I won't pretend that the kids at the performance weren't wriggling, or even teetering on the edge at some points but overall, there was a feeling of excitement and awe every time the wombat appeared, coupled with the kind of laughter, random outbursts and signs of abandon you would expect from children engaged in the moment and loving what they see. As a children's author, a reviewer and above all, a mother, it was a joy to behold.

So, do make sure you log on to Monkey Baa's Diary of a Wombat webpage and check out the venue listings and dates in your state. Though the Darling Quarter home of Monkey Baa will present the play in the April school holidays, other theatres will also run seasons, ensuring there is a wide reach for children in New South Wales and nationally.
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*Brydie Wright was invited as a guest
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Why? Kids' theatre adaptation of classic Australian picture book
When: 18 - 24 April & 27 May at Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre (plus nationwide tour)
Phone: (02) 8624 9341
Where: Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre (part of 59-venue nationwide tour)
Cost: Adult/Child Tickets are $29 (with discounts available for families and groups)
Your Comment
Fantastic review! I have to say looking at 'Mothball' makes me wish the tour was in the US too - it seems like it would be a lot of fun to check out.
by enlig (score: 0|3) 9 days ago
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