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Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A lesson in overcoming life’s challenges

Junior review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Moominpappa at Sea ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, December 5 ·
Review by Ollie Halusz, age 13 ·

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre has kicked off its 2019 season with a remount of Moominpappa at Sea, adapted from the book by Tove Jansson. The play is about a family, the Moomins, who leave their home to find a different life out at sea, finding comfort on an island with a lighthouse. When they first arrive, they each go off to do their own separate things, discovering both challenges, such as a big storm, trying to find food and a lighthouse that doesn’t work; and delights, such as a beautiful forest, hundreds of fish and fresh soil for a garden. This play goes to show that anyone can overcome any challenges life throws at you.

Puppets from Moominpappa at Sea
The Moomins. Photo:  Jessica Wyld

The lighting, by Elliot Chambers, is effective, transporting the audience to the story’s ocean setting. The sequence with the moon is particularly evocative. The puppets, designed and made by Leon Hendroff, are well made. One particular character, the Groke, reminded me of the Dementors from the Harry Potter series. There are three versions of the Groke – represented by a cloth, a puppet and the performer, Michael Barlow, who wears the cloth to became the character.

Barlow, Spare Parts’ associate director, plays many roles in this production including voicing all of the characters as well as narrating, and was very clear and entertaining.

Leon Hendroff’s set is a miniature version of an island, featuring a lighthouse at one end. Barlow takes advantage of the blank island, using his body and language to describe the setting of a forest, and the ocean surrounding the island. Smoke enhances both the eeriness of this island in the middle of the ocean and the character of the Groke.

Lee Buddle’s music composition and sound effects help to create the sense of the environment and atmosphere.

From my perspective as a 13 year old, I didn’t find the play as enjoyable as I might have a few years ago, but it definitely would suit ages 3-7, and is an ideal outing for parents and grandparents with young children, during the Christmas holiday break.

Moominpappa at Sea plays Spare Parts Puppet Thearte, 14 Jan – 2 Feb.

Read “senior critic” Rosalind Appleby’s review of Moominpappa at Sea.

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Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Elusive theatre puts audience at sea

Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, ‘Moominpappa at Sea‘ ⋅
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, December 7 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre will launch their summer holiday show Moominpappa at Sea this week. The production is based on a book written by Finnish author Tove Jansson describing the adventures of the eccentric Moomin family. Jansson’s series of stories from the mid 20th century about a family of white trolls with large snouts have developed a cult following. During the Moomin boom in the nineties the book series inspired movies, TV shows, merchandise, theme parks, and even the naming of the Moomintroll asteroid.

The Spare Parts production was created in 2015 by associate director Michael Barlow and the late Noriko Nishimoto, based on a book about the Moomin family moving to a deserted island. In this revival Barlow dons a top hat and takes on the role of Moominpappa, simultaneously voicing the other characters as he moves them around the island. Lighting designer Elliot Chambers operates the lights from the stage and takes on a cameo role as a fisherman/lighthouse keeper.

On one level it is a charming, timeless show that uses good old fashioned storytelling to transport us to a dreamy, mysterious island. On another level it is a melancholic and at times quite scary journey into one of Jansson’s more symbolist books.

We checked out a performance late last year during the schools season. In a string of quite disconnected scenes we discovered that nothing works out for the trolls on their new island home: the lighthouse is too small to enter, Moominmamma’s garden dies and storms wash away Moominpappa’s jetty. The overwhelming message is about loneliness and futility, depicted bleakly in the poem the trolls discover written on the lighthouse wall.

When Moomintroll decides to move out on his own and is haunted by the Troke it becomes quite nightmarish and creepy. The complete blackout in the theatre performance didn’t help; my five year old spent a large part of the performance huddled on my lap.

Many things are left unexplained such as the character of Little My (an adopted daughter), and the lighthouse which Moominpappa describes as huge but is actually far too small. And what is the purpose of the reclusive fisherman who is actually the previous lighthouse keeper?

Barlow providing the voices for Moomintroll and Moominmamma. Photo Jessica Wyld

Part of the problem is the trolls; Leon Hendroff’s designs are faithful to Jansson’s illustrations but essentially they are stuffed toys devoid of expression (not really puppets at all). Barlow’s gentle narrating doesn’t pack much emotional punch either, although it suits Jansson’s dreamy prose.

Instead the production relies heavily on Lee Buddle’s soundtrack to generate character and empathy. The sounds of waves, gulls and wind mix hypnotically with folksy flute and marimba. Even so the show never quite arrives at what the publicity material describes as “the spirit and joy of families going on great adventures together.”

Yet for all its melancholy and elusiveness it held the attention of my children and they both recommended others should go and see it.

In fact they travelled more deeply into the story than I realised. My seven year old thought the point of the story was that we should not take other people’s homes and try to rule over things. “They tried to rule over nature and nature didn’t like it. But when they made friends with the Groke and began to understand the sea it gave them things.”

Moominpappa At Sea runs Jan 14 – Feb 2. Recommended age is 5+ but I would suggest 6+.

Pictured top: Michael Barlow as Moominpappa. Photo Jessica Wyld.

Read a review of Moominpappa at Sea by junior critic Ollie Halusz, aged 13.

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Moonimpappa at Sea
Calendar, Children, February 19, January 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: Moominpappa at Sea

14 Jan – 2 Feb @ Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·
Presented by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre ·

Moominpappa at Sea Adapted from the book by Tove Jannson.

Moominpappa at Sea follows the plucky Moomin family as they begin an exciting new life on a rocky island far out to sea. Each family member embarks on an adventure – encountering the island’s mysterious inhabitants and discovering their own sense of place.

From the rumblings of the ocean to the squawks of seabirds, an atmospheric soundscape will transport you to the remote island world of the Moomintrolls brought to life by solo performer, Michael Barlow. This unique magical adventure story of a family ‘at sea’ becomes a journey of self-discovery for us all.

Duration: 50 mins

Suitable for ages 5 and above
10am & 1pm daily
Special 6.30pm performance Jan 18, 25 & Feb 1
No performances Sundays or public holidays.

PJ Party, Friday January 25 at 6:30pm. All tickets just $15
when you book a group of four or more to this session. Get your
jammies on and join us for a fun night at Moominpappa at Sea~

Booking Essential

Please visit  www.sppt.asn.au or telephone 9335 5044
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
1 Short Street, Fremantle
(opposite Fremantle Train Station)

Produced by special arrangement with Agency North Ltd  www.agencynorth.com

More info:
W: www.sppt.asn.au/
E:  marketing@sppt.com.au

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