Saturday, October 3, 2015

THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR SHOW and other timeless stories

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show and other timeless stories

Created by Jonathan Worsley. Directed by Naomi Edwards. Producer JWR Productions and  Michael Sieders. Set Designer James Browne. Puppets created by Puppet Kitchen. Costume Designer Andrea Espinoza.  Lighting Designer. Nicholas Rayment. Composer/Sound Designer Shannon Brown. Movement Director Samantha Chester. The Q. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. September 30 – October 4. 2015

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


The creative team behind The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show demonstrates that magic is not merely the province of the sleight of hand or the cunning illusion. In Jonathan Worsley’s puppet version of Eric Carle’s timeless and enchanting stories for the very young, magic dwells in the miracle of wonderment. It sparkles in the wide eyes of the children, transfixed by the company’s gentle and entrancing revelation of the story through puppetry, movement and colour. It glides upon the smiles of the adults, engrossed in the unfolding visual depiction of Eric Carle’s simply and beautifully woven stories of The Artist Who Painted The Blue Horse, Mr. Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly and the title tale that has earned its immortal place in the children’s library of classic tales, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Under Naomi Edwards’ direction and in the chameleon set of James Browne, the four skilful actor/puppeteers create a storybook world of fascinating creatures, simple adventures and wondrous transformations to thrill and delight the very young audience of babes in arms, excited toddlers and enchanted Mums, Dads and Grandparents. ├Źn The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse children watch in amazement as the brightly clothed artist transforms in a moment a white canvas into the magical painting of a blue horse or a black polar bear or a polka dot donkey. Anything is possible in this amazing world of the imagination. Mr Seahorse gives birth to Mrs. Seahorse’s eggs after meeting a variety of fish, also caring for the eggs of the mothers.  The role of the father takes on a very special significance in the family life of the sea creatures. The Very Lonely Firefly travels the world past lights of many different things before finding a cluster of fireflies to be his friends. There are friends to be found if one only goes in search of those who share your world. And of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar soon learns as he nurses his aching tummy full of fruit and vegetables and cake that the green leaf is his tummy’s best friend and the secret of his cocoon will fill him with hope of a new life as a brilliantly colourful and delicate butterfly.

Eric Carle’s world is one of magic, of colour, transformation, imagination and hope in the affirmation of life’s wonderment. In this absolutely wonderful puppet theatre production, the morals are not lost on the young audience. They will not be articulated from the mouths of the very young, but they will be understood in the amazed eyes, the spontaneous laughter, the excited wriggles and the enthusiastic clapping. This is children’s theatre of the very best kind. Eric Carle has captured the very hearts and minds of the 1-7 year olds for whom this fifty five minute performance is devised. James Browne has created a storybook setting in which the white pages turn to reveal a colourful scene beneath the sea , brightly coloured paintings upon the wall, a night scene and the vivid colours of the caterpillar’s world.  There is no need for the gratuitous participation of the rowdy pantomime. The magic in the story and the marvellously gentle puppetry, narration and musical backing, all illuminated by the changing scenes, are sufficient to bring Carle’s world to life and keep it vivid in the minds of an audience who are old enough to remember.

The names of the four actor/puppeteers are nowhere to be found,, which is a shame. Maybe the cast changes and they have decided not to credit the performers by name. The four whom I saw were thoroughly professional, deliberate in their pacing and enunciation to keep the audience enthralled and aware of the unfolding tale. Their movement too was gentle and their timing precise under Edwards’ direction. Mystery, intrigue, suspense and wonder were all played to perfection in the manipulation of New York Puppet Kitchen’s puppets, the turning of the pages and the telling of the story.

My four year old grandson sat fixed to his seat, only occasionally calling out in total involvement “a very hungry caterpillar” for all to hear. In his mind, and in mine, this not to be missed production will remain as a true testament to Carle’s world of wonderment and this company’s art in bringing it to life upon the Q’s stage.


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