[Theatre Review] SRT Right at Home with Children’s Theatre

peter-rabbit

A Peter Rabbit Tale
The Little Company, Singapore Repertory Theatre
25 February 2017
KC Arts Centre—Home of the SRT
24 February–14 April 2017

There could not be a better choice to celebrate The Little Company’s 15th anniversary than a tale of Peter Rabbit feeling ill at ease in his own home and seeking out a new life to lead, only to find out that home is where he truly belongs.

While the Singapore Repertory Theatre did not start out as a children’s company, the string of hits by The Little Company—especially with its most recent and stunning staging of Charlotte’s Web—has shown that it is completely at home with children’s theatre.

By entrusting a whole musical to a cast of young actors, safe for the lead, A Peter Rabbit Tale serves as a confident declaration of its expertise.

Such a bold statement is certainly not hot air as the actors prove that performing for children is not a matter of being energetic while portraying good or bad guys. The actors in the supporting roles display a wonderful sense of versatility at every turn.

One should admire the contrasts between Benedict Hew’s playful portrayal of Benjamin Rabbit and the prim and proper Thomas; Siti Maznah’s doting mother and the rock goddess of a Mrs Tiggy-Winkle; and Yvonne Low and Ng Yulin playing Peter Rabbit’s cutesy sisters as compared to the adventurous pair of squirrels. Of course, there is never a dull moment with Joshua Gui as the titular character as he hops along on various adventures, trying to fit into the environment and lifestyles of different animals.

However, the show did suffer from a few minor weaknesses: the volume of the microphones is a little soft; Alison Neighbour’s set could have been a touch more elaborate than a carpet of green and several brown poles as trees; the sequences in which Peter Rabbit gets into trouble could be slightly more intense; and Sarah Brandt’s book could have given Peter Rabbit more material to realise that home is the best place for him to be.  

That said, these are trifling faults and one’s enjoyment is not adversely affected in any way, even for a pedantic audience member such as yours truly.

Happy Birthday to The Little Company indeed.

Other Reviews

“Light, entertaining children’s fare brings clear message that ‘there’s no place like home.’” by Christian W. Huber, Centre 42 Citizens’ Review

“Theatre for kids in Singapore: The HoneyKids review of A Peter Rabbit Tale by SRT’s The Little Company” by Tracy Tristam, HoneyKids Asia

A Peter Rabbit Tale – Review” by Mum’s Calling

A Peter Rabbit Tale Review” by Mabel, Amazingly Still

A Peter Rabbit Tale– a light and heart warming tale” by My Preciouz Kids

A Peter Rabbit Tale Musical Adventure for the family {Review & Giveaway}” by Susan, A Juggling Mom

“TLC ‘A Peter Rabbit Tale’ Review” by The Wacky Duo

“Review of A Peter Rabbit Tale by Angie Sim, Life’s Tiny Miracles

A Peter Rabbit Tale — Review” by Our Parenting World

[Theatre Review] Imaginative Retelling of the Zodiac Race

13235240_10153775259879087_3725217420809300733_o

n.b. I would like to inform my readers that I am currently a project-based intern with Checkpoint Theatre for their upcoming production, The Last Bull: A Life in Flamenco. However, I strongly believe that this does not affect the integrity of my critique. Views expressed are my own.

Ready! Set! Zo!
I Theatre Creative Edge
28 May 2016, 10 a.m.
The Substation
25–29 May 2016

It is unavoidable. When Chinese New Year comes around, many adults will develop a voracious reading habit. They will consume every single word on information panels placed outside shopping malls, which inform them whether the coming year will be kind to those who are born in a particular year of a particular animal.

If only they bothered to read the folk tale of how the zodiac cycle came to be to their children which, judging from Creative Edge’s imaginative re-telling, has the potential to be entertaining.

Playwright and lyricist Dwayne Lau expands on the folk tale by giving the animals distinct personalities, and showed why the animals finish the race in the order that they did. His script is structured based on the snake acting as a commentator of the race. The plot is not only engaging, but the adults will be entertained by his clever puns, and references to white rabbit sweets, and how the fortune cat came to be.

However, in the course of giving life to his characters, he inadvertently faces problems when it comes to delivering the right message. Rat is scheming, manipulative, and devilishly intelligent—which is why she came in first. Yet, she is not punished and gets to retain her position. In order to circumvent the problem of sending the wrong message to children, Lau has a line saying that the positions do not matter as they each animal has a year to itself, and the years go in cycles. But the fact that Rat still came in first in a race, and that still says something. Additionally, she may have apologised towards the end of the show, but it appears that it was out of fear of Tiger rather than earnestly admitting her mistake.

In terms of the performance, director Alecia Kim Chua is keen to showcase the main aspects that the young actors of the Creative Edge programme go through. The physical work of embodying the various animals, mask work, and shadow puppetry expose children to various modes of story-telling, and they complement each other in the context of the show.

Unfortunately, most of the actors are not consistent in the way they embody the animals as the identity of some of the animals are not clear when they first appear on stage.  Also, they sometimes forget that the face of their characters is the mask that they put on their heads, and not their actual faces. There are several occasions when they portray their characters through their own facial expressions rather than moving the mask in such a way that brings the character to life. The only exception is Abby Lai as the Rat.

Despite the raw performances, Ready! Set! Zo! is an entertaining piece of children’s theatre. With some minor tweaks and more emphasis on physical theatre, it has the potential to be part of I Theatre’s repertoire which can be restaged, especially in the midst of Chinese New Year celebrations.