Friday, June 10, 2016

Hippo! Hippo!

Hippo! Hippo! adapted from There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake! by Hazel Edwards, illustrated by Deborah Niland.  Adaptation licensed by Penguin Australia.  A Garry Ginivan Attraction in association with Shows for Schools.  At Canberra Theatre Centre June 10 (schools) and June 11, 2016, 10am.

Adapted, designed and directed by Garry Ginivan
Original score and music by Mark Jones
Original arrangements by Tim Smith

Cast: Girl - Kaisha Durban; Mother - Rosie Byth; Father - Eamonn George; Brother - Dean Schulz
          Hippo / Suit Character - Andrew Dunne

Reviewed by Frank McKone
June 10

The GGA blurb states “THERE'S A HIPPOPOTAMUS ON OUR ROOF EATING CAKE was first published in 1980.  Since then this book series has become one of Australia's most iconic and best loved childrens' publications.

HIPPO! HIPPO! - the musical, will make you laugh and make you cry, but most of all it will lift your spirits with a quality of entertainment for kids and families that is unbeatable.”

For 1000 4 to 5 year-olds this morning there was laughter, miming rubbing in sun cream, hiding behind the seats and bursting out visibly and audibly (very) with jungle masks at a surprise birthday party for the little girl and lots of other joinings in. 

But I didn’t notice any crying when Hippopotamus carried on his backpack and ladder, leaving the little girl – I presume – to explore the world and find other rooves where he could sit in peace, eat his cake...and perhaps piddle (going on the evidence in this show of large liquid drops, despite Father saying that the roof had never leaked!)

There was no need for tears, since by her birthday the little girl had successfully settled in to her first day at school, met a boy buddy who painted elephants to complement her paintings of her hippopotamus, and so she was on her way to new adventures just like Hippopotamus.  Not that she would ever forget him.  Instead of knowing that he was on her roof, perhaps she wouldn’t mind knowing that he was on someone else’s roof, somewhere else in the world, eating cake.

On stage my previous paragraph didn’t actually happen, but I’ve extended the story because this is what I imagine the children might do.  Imagination and not being afraid of where it might take you is what this show is all about.

It succeeds not just because of the original story, but possibly even better than hearing or reading the book.  The actors are highly skilled, as singers, dancers and actors who can communicate dramatically even with 1000 pre-schoolers/Year Ones.  It’s not easy to take the audience up to extreme noise and action in training them to prepare for the surprise party, and bring them down to expectant silence ready for the little girl’s entrance – and maintain the discipline of hiding (Animal 1), putting on their jungle masks (Animal 2), and then jumping up with such a huge roar as Animal 3 is called.

This is living theatre – a thousand acting together to bring the words into action.  This is highly successful education in theatre arts.  This is the purpose of Shows for Schools, and I can highly recommend Hippo! Hippo!

In the jungle
Dean Schulz, Andrew Dunne, Rosie Byth, Eamonn George

At the beach
Dean Schulz, Eamonn George, Rosie Byth, Kaisha Durban

At the birthday party
Andrew Dunne, Kaisha Durban

Kaisha Durban as Girl