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Bambert's Book of Lost Stories - Review

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by Danielle Norton (subscribe)
I'm a freelance travel, lifestyle and content writer based in Melbourne. If you need the right words, I have them. Feel free to connect with me or have a look at my site for examples of my published work
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The Barking Gecko Theatre Company's production of Bambert's Book of Lost Stories is a wonderful play for children. Adapted for the stage by Dan Giovannoni and Luke Kerridge, it was a fun family show, with lots of laughter and chatting pre-performance, not the usual sophisticated murmuring of the Arts Centre theatre crowd. It was heartening to see kids excited about a live performance. Also impressive, was the addition of two Auslan interpreters to help tell the story. Wearing black, they blended into the background and the light shone on their hands and faces only.

The story of Bambert, a tiny little man, who sits alone writing stories in his attic, is narrated by the shopkeeper who is Bambert's key to interacting with the real world. Bambert realises that his tales need better settings than he can offer them so he sends his stories out into the world in balloons, with a request that whoever finds them returns them saying where they are.

The character of Bambert is played by a puppet, operated by no less than four puppeteers who, with exaggerated facial expressions, smiles and movements, were able to embody the character as well. The chief puppeteer made funny little noises that were not quite words but articulated Bambert's emotions very clearly.

The visual elements of this play were very beautiful. The set, the shopkeeper's store, was crafted like an old-fashioned toy shop with a homely feel, warmed by soft lighting. The balloons drifted up into the air, lit up like dreams, and it felt to me that they were, indeed, floating out into the world. The musical score helped with the dreaminess, subtly changing with the stories as they were played out, and adding atmosphere and drama.

Some of the stories were set in wartime and perhaps an audience of only children would have missed the significance, however, every child attends with a parent and every good production for children remembers that they have a dual audience. So, stories about poets locked in a prison, Jack the Ripper coming to life, and children being rounded up in Poland and sent to great big holes in the earth, actually worked well within the light-hearted telling of this story.

At the beginning of the play, we are told that Bambert wishes (like many authors) that the story would write "itself. The shopkeepers questions this idea continuously. "How can a story write itself? The ending of the play demonstrates exactly how a story is made up of its parts and can play out in unimaginable ways.

Before the show, children were encouraged to colour in a card with a picture of a balloon and a space to write what it was that they wished for. These images were then scanned through a purpose-built lightbox and after the show, kids could see their wishes floating across a large screen in the foyer.

Some wishes were clever, "I wish for infinite wishes". Others were environmental and wished for "no pollution". And others yet were political, wishing for "Trump to be impeached", some altruistic; "human rights for everyone" and "world peace".

There were also an assortment of desires from younger children too; a wish for 100 dollars, to never die, to be famous, to be a doctor, happiness for everyone and "a TV in my room". The most poetic, though, was the child who wished for "an invincible heart".

Me, I just wished for a story that would write itself!
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*Danielle Norton was invited as a guest
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When: 27 & 28 October
Where: The Arts Centre Melbourne
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