Sunday, January 13, 2013

WINNIE THE POOH

Free Rain Theatre
Directed by Amy Dunham
The Courtyard, Canberra Theatre Centre to January 20

Review by Len Power



Isn’t it amazing that even though he is over eighty years old, Winnie The Pooh is still a favourite character for today’s children?  Written by A.A. Milne, the book, ‘Winnie-The-Pooh’, first appeared in 1926 and was followed by ‘The House At Pooh Corner’ in 1928.  Milne named the character Winnie-the-Pooh after a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, who was the basis for the character Christopher Robin.  Continuously popular from original publication, the stories gained a new lease of life when Walt Disney productions bought the rights and produced several animated movies as well as soft toys and other merchandise from 1966.

Free Rain’s ‘Winnie the Pooh’, directed by Amy Dunham, is a delightful 45 minute production at which the young audience at the opening performance were totally enthralled.  In a smart move, children had the option of sitting in conventional seats or on the ‘grass’ at the front of the stage.  These children were then made part of the show as ‘friends’ of the characters onstage and were invited to participate in such things as finding Eeyore’s missing tail.  Actually the children were a bit ahead of the action, pointing out the tail before they were asked by the cast to look for it.

The colourful set, nicely designed by director, Amy Dunham and the cast, initially invokes the toys to be found in a nursery and comes alive as Christopher Robin’s dream involving his animal friends progresses.  Amy Dunham has done a fine job directing all aspects of this quality children’s theatre production.




Rachel Thornton, Sam Needham and Miles Thompson


The cast, in excellent costumes by Fiona Leach, do a nice job with finely drawn characters that meet our expectations from the stories.  Miles Thompson, as Winnie the Pooh, has a warmth in his vocal delivery that is very appealing.  He also moves well in spite of having a padded costume to wear.  Lachlan Whan as Tigger bounces all over the set, winning over the young audience with a joyful quirkiness.  Rachel Thornton plays a pretty and sweet-natured Piglet and Kitty McGarry plays the Nanny at the beginning and end of the show and also shines as the sunny character, Kanga.  The costume for Kanga conceals a delightful surprise for the audience which I won’t spoil for you here.  Sam Needham as Christopher Robin and Zack Drury as the depressed Eeyore find depths in their characters that make them very real.

Miles Thompson and Zack Drury

 Everyone in the cast showed great skill at interacting naturally with the young audience.  This can’t be easy as I imagine you can never predict what response you’ll get from different groups of children.  For adults bringing their children to the show, it’s delightful to watch the children so involved in the action.  After the show, the cast meet and chat with the children in the foyer, so bring your camera.

I have no memory of being taken to children’s theatre as a child.  I wonder if productions back then were as good as this one?

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 13 January 2013

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