SNUGGLEPOT AND CUDDLEPIE
SNUGGLEPOT & CUDDLEPIE, A CDP production in association with Monkey Baa Theatre Company, Playhouse Theatre - Sydney Opera House 3 July 2015. (Touring in 2016.) Photography by Branco Gaica: above Jacob Warner and Kirk Page; right: Georgia Adamson and Jacob Warner.
The combination of producer CDP (The Gruffalo(s), the various storeys of Treehouse, Babies Proms etc) and Monkey Baa (Pete the Sheep, Simon Tedeschi Pianist and Prankster) virtually guarantees a first-rate production and this one is no exception. It’s been adapted for a 55-minute show for littlies and their lucky adults by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry from the much loved books by May Gibbs.
The audience enters the theatre to bird song (sound designer Daryl Wallis) and May Gibbs’ idyllic vision of the bush – stylised renderings of gum leaves and trees and an ingenious sawn log thingy that twirls and seesaws as required when the Gumnut Babes are on their adventures. Gibbs’ illustrations are beautifully recreated by production designer Imogen Ross, while Trudy Dalgliesh’s subtle, effective lighting turns the simple and intelligent setting from sunshine to ominous and back again as S’pot and C’pie progress.
The show opens with a vintage recording of the elderly Gibbs talking about her books and their characters. It’s a magical and electrifying moment that anchors the kiddy fantasy in the reality of Australian literary history. Another creative triumph is Matthew Aberline’s costuming. Again, it’s as if the creatures of Gibbs’ imagination have leapt out of the pages onto the stage.
And leap they do as the delightful, wide-eyed Kirk Page (Cuddlepie) and Jacob Warner (Snugglepot) decide they must travel to the city to see a (gasp) human and energetically set out to do so. Even more energy is displayed by the wonderful Georgia Adamson and Christopher Tomkinson as they take on the multiple roles of the friends and enemies the Babes meet on their journey.
Director Susanna Dowling and an (unseen and exceptional) stage manager successfully manipulate the constantly moving puzzle of numerous quick changes to transform the two into goofy Professor Kookaburra, silly Mrs Fantail, slidy Mr Lizard, jumpy Mr Frog, snide Mrs Snake, sleepy Mr Possum and gorgeous Little Ragged Blossom. Dowling, Adamson and Tomkinson also ensure that each character is sharply focused and three-dimensional; and the action zooms along.
The producers have clearly understood and gone with the maxim that it pays to hire only the best for a kids’ show – as small people are the toughest critics of shonky production values and fake acting. The modernising of the script is unobtrusive and makes sense, there are lovely jokes about nut cases and nuttiness and excellent sniggers about Bottom (and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and altogether it would be difficult to find a better way to spend an hour than in the company of these fabulous and hard working actors and a squealing and chortling horde of enchanted brats of all ages. Recommended.