Review: Barking Gecko Theatre, My Robot ⋅
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre ⋅
Reviews by Gabriel and Sascha Bott ⋅
Gabriel (aged 10)
One thing you want in a show is a good story. Nailed it. Another thing you want is a good cast. Nailed it. Finegan Kruckemeyer has done a fabulous job with writing Barking Gecko Theatre’s My Robot.
It tells the story of a girl named Ophelia (Marlanie Haerewa) who moves into a new house by the beach, next to an old junk shop. Ophelia makes a robot out of some parts sent from the junk shop.
The show is ever-changing and very sudden in terms of emotion and setting. The lighting wasn’t the best though; it was very dark at some key points in the show. On the bright side, the robot is a robot, which I think is awesome.
I feel like the cast was picked very well, including St John Cowcher as Ophelia’s father and Sarah Nelson, who plays Olivetti the robot. The only problem with the cast is that there are only three cast members in the whole show, which means that cast members are rushing around trying to change their clothes all the time.
Overall, I think it’s great. 9 out of 10 stars for me. Barking Gecko have continued to make amazing shows, and this would be their best one yet.
Sascha (aged 8)
I watched My Robot tonight at the State Theatre Centre. It was written by Finegan Kruckemeyer and performed by Barking Gecko Theatre. My Robot is about a robot made by a little girl who just moved house and was very sad about that.
I like that the robot was a real robot, not just a person dressed up as a robot. I think that they could have made the bully meaner because he was a bit too nice. It was clever how they made it look like the robot was shooting the toys onto the shelf.
I liked the show, I think that schools and families should come and watch it.
Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fox ⋅
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle, July 6 ⋅
Review by Bethany Stopher ⋅
Based on the book by Margaret Wild, Fox is a beautiful show that incorporates puppetry into dancing with ease.
As the lights dimmed we could see the shadow of two trees being held up by performers. The lights flashed to represent lightning and suddenly we could spot orange silk unfurling from the sides of the stage. The magpie (played by Gala Shevtsov) flew around the stage, twittering loudly, until the fire snatched away one of her wings.
Right from the start Fox was captivating. The performers were very convincing, acting exactly like the creature they were portraying. Magpie was very quick on her feet, emitting high-pitched wails that sounded very similar to the actual bird. Dog (played by Scott Galbraith) was very boisterous, making the little kids laugh with his antics and scratching. Fox (played by Rachel Arianne Ogle) was a very sinister character with a vicious snarl and twisting body.
Whilst simple, the scenery was also very effective. At the back of the stage there was a sheet used to project things on. Most of the time it was just a plain colour or pattern but sometimes they were illustrations from the book, which I found a nice link to the source material. The sheet was moved from backstage in certain scenes, which made a rippling effect or the ripples of water dropping on a pond.
The lights (controlled by Graham Walne) and music also had a big impact on the emotions of the story; when the characters were happy, the lighting was warm and the music upbeat. When the story turned unpleasant the colours were stark and the music intense.
“Puppetry involves giving life that didn’t have life in itself,” director Michael Barlow stated at the Q&A session after the show. It was interesting how many of the children had questions for the cast, which shows how involved they were in the experience.
One thing that I particularly liked was that use of the narration from the book as a voiceover. If anything got too scary for younger children it reminded them of the fact that it was a story and nothing terrible was actually happening. Although the show stuck to the storyline of the picture book, the depth of the emotions and meaning were thoroughly explored. This made it a very enjoyable experience.
The puppets, made by Leon Hendroff, are truly works of art. They added so much to the performance as the actors became them and gave them a personality. I especially admired the fox puppet, a fox head perched on the hand while vibrant silk draped over her arms along a piece of wire. This gave a very life-like effect.
Overall, I was very impressed with the show. It is an emotional, inspiring story that cleverly incorporates dance. The actors were brilliant, the puppets amazing. What more could you want? Definitely a must see for the holidays.
From budding violin player to executive director, Ben Burgess has had a long association with the West Australian Youth Orchestra. Burgess chatted to Rosalind Appleby about a new commission and other innovations that are providing WAYO’s 400 young musicians with opportunities to reach for the stars.
Seesaw: You’ve dedicated 14 years of your working life to this organisation. What is the appeal of working with the Western Australian Youth Orchestra?
Ben Burgess: The main appeal is giving young people fantastic performance opportunities and seeing young people grow and improve through all our groups, over many years. We also have many individuals and organisations that support what we do which is always encouraging. Because it is a small team at WAYO you can really see the results of your hard work be it in concerts, sponsorship or funding.
S: WAYO has been around since 1974. Has the role of the organisation changed much over the years to attract new generations of audiences and musicians?
BB: WAYO’s core values have never changed but we have been able to introduce new programs such as the International Conductor Season and collaborations that add a new element to being in a youth orchestra program. We also invest time and resources in creating and promoting programs and concert that interest the concert-going public as well as our members.
S: Recently I’ve noticed a new focus on Australian composers, particularly women, with the commissioning of Melody Eotvos and the performance of a piece by Dulcie Holland this year. What has prompted this?
BB: WAYO’s last four commissions have been from Australian female composers which we have premiered on main stage concerts plus a work we toured internationally, and all our groups regularly perform Australian music. Recently and justifiably there has been some focus on bringing gender equality into programming but it’s something WAYO and the small-to-medium sector have been doing for many years, but possibly not everyone has realised.
S: On July 13 WAYO’s flagship ensemble will perform Eotvos’ Solar Wolvz. Can you give us any clues as to what the piece is about?
Solar Wolvz is based on a very peculiar chain of ideas, all related to meteors, comets and any unpredictable objects in space. Inspired by the ghostly Spider Crater in the Kimberley region, the icy Oort Cloud that surrounds our solar system, and Ouamama (the only known interstellar object that has passed through our solar system), Solar Wolvz is a musical journey through time and space filled with brilliant orchestral colour.
S: The concert will be conducted by Benjamin Northey, Chief Conductor of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, and Associate Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Why is it important to secure high profile conductors like Benjamin Northey to work with the orchestra?
BB: Many years ago, the idea of getting an international conductor straight off the professional circuit to spend a week with WAYO was a pipe dream. Now we have had 13 years of having conductors from all over the world come to Perth for a week. This program has meant the orchestra spend an intense week like a professional orchestra does instead of rehearsing once a week over a few months. It provides WAYO members with a glimpse of the professional world but in a supportive and exciting environment. One of the really nice things of the program is the enthusiasm the conductors themselves show in embracing the orchestra and working together for a week.
S: I still remember the thrilling feeling the first time I played in an orchestra. Did you participate in WAYO when you were studying oboe? What was it like? Was it a good stepping stone to a career in music?
BB: I was lucky enough to do WAYO both as a young violinist and later as an oboe player and spent upwards of 10 years as a member. It was a terrific experience musically and socially and it was a big and vital help when I later performed professionally in orchestras around Australia, and even later when I transitioned to arts management.
S: What is your favourite orchestral work?
BB: Anything by Richard Strauss, so likely Don Juan.
S: Under your directorship WAYO has experienced significant growth in audience and sponsorship partnerships, as well as international tours. What is your secret to success?
BB: WAYO has a lot of great people and organisations that believe in what we do and contribute in all sorts of ways. We honour the long tradition and history of what WAYO has done, but also look to continually improve it and be ambitious with new things that a youth orchestra typically isn’t known for. For example our collaborations with Orchestra of the Makers (Singapore), the Perth Festival and delivering special events for our major sponsors.
S: Where is the organisation heading next?
BB: In addition to our standard big concert seasons and our world famous Babies Proms, we are looking at more unique events and collaborations within the Western Australian community and an international tour in a few years.
Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fox ⋅
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle, July 6 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅
“There are no words”, my 6 year old whispers, without taking her eyes from the stage.
A storm and then a bushfire raged across the stage, leaving a magpie wounded and crying. We watched as a dog befriended the magpie and then a fox seduced her.
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre were using dancers, puppets and a stunning creative design to convey Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks’ book Fox. There were very few words, and we didn’t need them.
Michael Barlow’s production (from 2015), is one of the most profound and beautiful I’ve seen from Spare Parts; a reminder that masterful storytelling doesn’t need words to communicate the deep truths of life.
My daughter loved Magpie, danced by Gala Shevtsov with an alert fragility, her heart torn between her loyalty to Dog and her aching desire to feel the wind in her wings. My son loved Dog, danced by Scott Galbraith with big-hearted exuberance. And Rachel Arianne Ogle’s Fox was utterly entrancing with a rippling silk tail that flickered dangerously like fire. Ogle conveyed the “smell of rage and envy and loneliness” that hung about Fox with her taut leaps and sharp contortions.
Key to their successful character portrayal is the blend of puppetry and choreography (Jacob Lehrer) and the exquisite design (Leon Hendroff) and costumes (Nicole Marrington and Sheridan Savage). Graham Walne’s lighting and projections convey the heat of fire and jealousy, the calmness of water and trust and the tumult of storms and grief. The metaphors are reinforced by Lee Buddle’s sound track which includes the sounds of smashed glass and distorted electric guitar (Fox), the friendly fun of a folk band (Magpie and Fox) and the serenity of a flute and rain soundscape.
The visual and aural metaphors carried the story deep into our hearts. My junior critics identified strongly with the characters and engaged in lengthy discussion afterwards. They felt the show had an undercurrent of sadness and fear. But the exquisite beauty and playfulness of the dancers kept a finely honed emotional balance. This was one of the best children’s theatre productions we’ve seen.
6 – 14 July @ Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by Barking Gecko Theatre ·
A show about making new friends – literally! When Ophelia moves with her family to the seaside, she’s not impressed. She doesn’t like the beach, misses her old home and thinks the people in this town are pretty strange. While unpacking her room she discovers a mysterious box full of gadgets, parts and pieces, and a strange note that reads ‘You. Make. Me.’
Her curiosity gets the better of her and she spends all night assembling the objects into Olivetti, a robot with a typewriter chest and an alarm clock heart. Made up of pieces, but more than the sum of her parts.
My Robot takes audiences of all ages on a rambunctious adventure filled with robot antics, laughter, daring rescues and bewildered parents, all told with the care and artistry synonymous with Barking Gecko’s award-winning shows.
by Finegan Kruckemeyer
Saturday 6 July 5.00pm
Tuesday 9 July 5.00pm
Thursday 11 July 10:00am (Gentle performance), 1.00pm
Friday 12 July 10:00am (Auslan performance), 1.00pm
Saturday 13 July 10:00am, 1.00pm
Sunday 14 July 11:00am
“Bring your rain poncho and wear noisy shoes,” the instructions read. Now that sounds like an intriguing art installation.
Contemporary artist Marnie Orr is running school holiday workshops at the Art Gallery of WA and they are all about rain. From July 10-19 children will use their bodies and found materials to brew up a storm in an immersive exploration of rain. The AGWA workshop is one of many art activities for children launching as Perth’s creative community gears up for school holidays.
The State Theatre Centre is brimming with events. On July 13 the building will come alive with Aboriginal art, poetry, films and culture to celebrate Naidoc Day. And between July 6-14 the theatre will be overrun with robots as Barking Gecko take over the building. A season of Finegan Kruckmeyer’s show My Robot (read Seesaw’s review here) will be complemented by some very cool free classes. Kids can flex their engineering and design skills by building a Lego robot, then fight it out in the Battle Arena with other young programmers. In the Super Heroes Workshops kids and adults work together using drama and creative thinking to solve problems.
From August 13 – 16 the State Theatre will present a production of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts. Roald Dahl’s classic reworking of The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Goldilocks and Jack and the Beanstalk is being brought to the stage by Shake and Stir Theatre..
There is an enormous range of art classes at Fremantle Arts Centrefor children and teenagers: photography, cartoons, pottery, anime and mosaic to list just a few. And you can check out the work of 2018’s Year 12 students in Pulse Perspectives, (reviewed by Seesaw here) in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of WA.
Don’t forget to include some musical magic in your school holiday fun. The WA Youth Jazz Orchestra will present Jazz for Juniorsat His Majesty’s Theatre July 9 & 10. These fun-filled concerts introduce young children to the concepts of jazz music and the instruments the musicians play. Best of all, everyone gets the chance to try out some instruments built for small hands.
Be inspired by some of WA’s best young musicians as the WA Youth Orchestraand conductor Benjamin Northey perform a concert of Australian and Russian music, including the world premiere of a piece by Australian composer Melody Eötvös. Tickets don’t come much cheaper than this for a full symphonic concert and you can be guaranteed a passionate performance.
At UWA’s Conservatorium of Music kids can leap into the world of percussion at the Discover! Percussion workshop at UWA on July 10, or a saxophone bootcamp with Emma McPhilemy on the 12-13th.
And of course Spare Parts Puppet Theatre will perform puppet shows in Fremantle throughout the holidays. Their show this time is the story of the unexpected friendship between a magpie and a dog. Foxis a fusion of puppetry and dance that will take you on a journey through scorched scrub and ochre desert where the true meaning of friendship and loyalty will be discovered.
WA’s performing and visual arts companies are reaching out this winter to engage young people with the arts. There’s no better time to dive in!
Pictured top: A real robot is part of the cast in Barking Gecko’s My Robot. Photo supplied.
Review: CDP presents Tall Stories’ production The Gruffalo⋅
Heath Ledger Theatre, June 5 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅
The theatre has the potential to be the ultimate playground for children. The sense of exploration is ignited just by climbing the stairs into the venue (especially the State Theatre Centre staircase with its stalactites hanging from the ceiling) and working out how to sit on the folding chairs. As teachers shushed and parents passed popcorn the sense of adventure was palpable at the Tall Stories (UK) production of The Gruffalo which opened in Perth this week.
The success of this adaption of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s classic storybook (touring Australia with CDP Kids) is that it takes a child’s imaginative potential and lets it flourish. The audience are invited into the adventure in true British pantomime style; there is no time for yawns in this action-packed hour, no need to dampen down lively spirits.
The audience were part of the storytelling from the outset as the three actors introduced themselves and applied their accessories onstage: a rope tail and a painted nose for the Mouse and hat flaps that turned into ears for the Fox. There was no doubting the characters or the story line and in several places the actors allowed the delighted children to fill in the gaps of Donaldson’s iconic rhyming verse.
The story about a mouse taking a walk in a deep dark wood is supplemented with song and dance numbers and lots of banter. Fox references Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail in his list of tasty meals, and blames a bouncing Tigger for his indigestion. Owl is a retired air force general who gets Mouse marching, while the sequined Snake dances a samba in front of his (fairylight adorned) logpile house. The additions are funny, smart and draw the audience deeper into the characters. The response was one of undampened enthusiasm as children shouted directions, completed the rhymes and screamed with delight when the shaggy Gruffalo came running into the auditorium to hide from the Mouse.
The all-Australian cast was led by Shannen Sarstedt as the sharp-witted, karate chopping Mouse, supported by narrators Kyle Kaczmarczyk (who doubled as a Gruffalo that was more softie than scary) and Skyler Ellis whose theatrics created hilarious caricatures of the woodland animals.
Isla Shaw’s forest set design was playful and lush, colourfully lit by James Whiteside. Jon Fiber’s music was catchy and Liesel Badorrek’s recreation of the work of original director Olivia Jacobs completed the entertaining package. My 6 and 8 year old theatre goers were completely caught up in the adventure, delighting in the bravery of the mouse and the antics of the Gruffalo. The show is marketed towards children 3+ and we can confirm it is an ‘enormouse’ success with kids of all ages.
13 – 16 August @ The State Theatre Centre of Western Australia ·
Presented by Shake & Stir ·
Think you know the stories of The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Goldilocks and Jack and the Beanstalk? Think again! Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts bursts off the page in a spectacular live show, taking the world’s best-loved fairy tales and rearranging them with some surprising and hilarious twists.
Seriously funny and frighteningly silly, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts is the perfect family entertainment especially for children 5 to 25, that’s sure to delight and disgust in equal measure.
Making their 3rd visit to Perth the multi Helpmann Award winning team at shake & stir have adapted the works of Roald Dahl to fit a 55 mins format which will have the kids and adults squirming with delight!
Tuesday 13 August at 10am, 1pm & 6pm
Wednesday 14 August at 10am, 1pm & 6:30pm
Thursday 15 August at 10am & 6:30pm
Friday 16 August at 10am, 4:30pm & 6:30pm
4 – 9 June @ The State Theatre Centre of Western Australia ·
Presented by CDP ·
Whether their favourite food is roasted fox, owl ice cream, scrambled snake or Gruffalo crumble, audiences eat up this delectable tale about the adventures of a clever little mouse in a forest full of predators, which returns to Perth after sell-out seasons when it plays at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia from 4-9 June 2019!
Adapted from the Gold Award-winning children’s book, The Gruffalo follows Mouse into the deep dark wood on the hunt for hazelnuts. Armed with just a nut map and a very vivid imagination, Mouse runs into the smirking, wheeler-dealer Fox; an eccentric, retired Woodland Air Force General Owl; and the maraca-shaking, party animal Snake. Rather than becoming the main course of their next meal, Mouse kills their appetites with stories of an imaginary monster friend. But what happens when Mouse welcomes face to face with the very creature she imagined? In a production that has become the toast of London’s West End, Tall Stories & CDP vibrantly reinvent this delightful tale through its signature style of bold, multifaceted storytelling.
A trio of bright new performers fill the forest with colourful characters and toe tapping, sing-along songs. Audiences will be dazzled with brand new sets and costumes when the return season entices fans with the magic of the deep dark wood.
Tuesday 4th of June at 1pm
Wednesday 5th of June at 10am & 12pm
Thursday 6th of June at 10am & 12pm
Friday 7th of June at 10am & 12pm
Saturday 8th of June at 10am, 12pm & 3pm
Sunday 9th of June at 10am & 12pm
Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Blueback ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 10 April ·
Junior review by Isabel, age 9 ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s production of Blueback was adapted by Peta Murray from the book by Tim Winton, and directed by Philip Mitchell.
The play was about a boy called Abel Jackson and he lived by the sea. One day when he was scuba diving he met a fish and he called him Blueback because of his colour. The story follows Abel as he grows up and tells about the changes in the ocean like pollution.
Abel moved away to go to school and when he came back in the holidays, people were trying to buy his family’s land. After he finished school, Abel went to university to study the ocean and he travelled the world. Meanwhile, his mother was back at home watching all the changes in the ocean like dying fish and sea lions from Antarctica washing up on the coast.
The performers (Daniel Doseck and Jessica Harlond Kenny) were really good at moving the puppets. At the start they moved an eel around and it moved in a very realistic way. My favourite puppet was Blueback because he was really friendly and when he first met Abel he grabbed his flipper and wouldn’t let go. The puppets for Abel and his mother were a bit creepy because they were bald and they didn’t have mouths. The puppets used for when they were swimming made the people look like eels because they had no arms or legs.
The lighting made everything look blue like the sea. The set was used in several ways to make a coral reef, a road and some grape vines. My favourite part was at the end when Abel’s daughter Anna met Blueback.
Overall, the play was quite sad and a little bit scary. I would recommend it for older children because all the death makes it too scary for younger kids.
Junior review by Eddy, age 6 ·
This was a story about a fish called Blueback. He was very big, blue and very old. There was a little boy and his mum who lived by the sea. The boy was little at the beginning of the play but he grew up and went to school and then university to study the sea.
The play is very sad because lots of things are dead or get killed, like fish, a shark and lots of people.
The puppeteers moved the puppets really well and made it look like they were swimming. The best part was when the boy discovered Blueback and Blueback nipped his flippers.
There were flashing lights for the lightning. The music got sad when the sad parts happened and was happy when the happy parts happened.
I think this play was quite good and big kids will enjoy it.