Family fun at the theatre

8 April 2021

Need a school holiday belly laugh? There’s room for everyone in this heart-warming theatrical adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s classic book Room on the Broom, finds Rosalind Appleby.

Room on the Broom, Tall Stories & CDP Theatre Productions ·
State Theatre Centre, 7 April 2021 ·

It’s a big risk going to see a theatrical adaptation of your favourite book in the whole world. There is so much at stake.

Fortunately UK theatre group Tall Stories have done this before, and their production of Room on the Broom satisfied the scrutiny of five of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s greatest young fans.

Tall Stories’ family theatre productions tour worldwide and this season at the State Theatre Centre is thanks to the Sydney-based CDP Theatre Producers and their cast of four highly talented actors/singers/puppeteers.

It is great to see interstate regulars like CDP returning to the State Theatre Centre, and an auditorium (75%) full of noisy, happy children. And it wasn’t just my entourage who were Donaldson fans, everyone in the audience seemed to know her book word for word. After an initial slow start, we were drawn into the subplots and deeper themes Tall Stories have woven into the story.

This playful adaptation is less about Donaldson’s predictable rhyming couplets and more about fleshing out the characters who take a ride on the Witch’s broom. Each animal is introduced with a song (this is the theatre after all), the most memorable being the bluegrass-singing Frog (Nat Jobe), and the Bird’s ode to Bali (he missed his flight and is banking on the broom to take him there) performed with cockiness by Stephen Anderson.

Four people crouch around a cauldron, holding bird, dog and frog puppets
The ‘Room on the Broom’ cast of four are a heart-warming team. Pictured are the cast from the 2019 production. Photo Heidrun Lohr

The show is performed by a cast of four, with the animal puppets shared between the cast, except for the Cat who is performed by Andrew Threlfall. The comical Cat stole the hearts of my crew, with his sulky opposition to sharing the broom and his enthusiasm to help the Witch with her spells. The scene where the Cat tried to teach the Dog how to say “Whoosh” rather than “Woof” had the audience in stitches, and more than willing to help join in the refrain.

On Wednesday the Witch was performed by Chandel Rose, with Mary Poppin-esque charm, drawing my sympathy for her spell-fails and habit of losing things (has she been a mum too?).

Thanks also to Nat Jobe for his hilarious improv after mixing up the accents for the Dog and the Frog, providing a good belly-laugh for the adults in the audience as he fessed up: “I had a frog in my throat”.

The expedition to find the Dragon and the disaster of the broken broom provide plenty of problems and a heart-warming solution. And the grand reveal of the new broom is truly magnificent indeed.

The verdict from the young ones:

“Other kids should definitely go and see Room on the Broom because it is different to the book and you’ll never see it anywhere else. It’s really funny. And it also has a lesson about sharing: if you share then other people will share with you.”

Room on the Broom continues until 11 April 2021.

Pictured top: The Dog and Cat share the broom with the Witch in Tall Stories’ production of ‘Room on the Broom’. Photo of 2019 cast by Heidrun Lohr.

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Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She was co-managing editor and founding board member of Seesaw Magazine 2018 – 2023, is author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine (UK). She loves park percussion instruments.

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