Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
What happens when you mix excitable children of all ages with a beatboxing dancing bear and a singing pigeon? Magic.
Adapted from the book by Tohby Riddle, Nobody Owns The Moon is a new show from Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in Fremantle for ages 5+. A story of living in a big city and coming together for one magical night of theatre, there are a range of characters all cleverly embodied by the small team of 4 actors – Yvan Karlsson is the aforementioned beat boxing bear, and pigeon caller, who grabs the audience with his first entrance and keeps them there. He is young and talented and is our friendly narrator: he tells us the story of Clive the fox and Humphrey the donkey who struggle to live in the big city and feel lonely. Clive (wonderfully observed by Jessica Lewis) and Humphrey (Shirley Van Sanden complete with a braying laugh that drew giggles and imitations every time she used it) are friends who find an invitation in a blue envelope on the street to a show at the National Theatre called Nobody Owns The Moon.
In an interview with the author on his website, Riddle tells us that the serendipitous blue envelope becomes a catalyst for our two heroes to experience another side of the city – they watch a Punch and Judy style show of a fox and a donkey who fight over who owns the forest, the trees and the moon. In inimitable Punch and Judy style, they beat each other up, which had the audience in stitches. Children were bouncing up and down in their seats and yelling out.
There is a rich crocodile (Geoff Kelso) who decides he wants to buy the moon, but the moon says no. The fox and donkey puppets beat him up. The crocodile gets up in a huff and decides he will buy the whole city then. The ending is the realisation for Clive and Humphrey that, if perhaps only fleeting – the city is theirs too. Nobody owns the city – it is everyone’s.
This is a gentle story, and relies on movement and dancing to convey passage of time and characterisation. The highlight was the night at the theatre with the Punch and Judy show. As this show is adapted from a picture book, we learned in a Q&A at the end that parts (such as the dancing bear and crocodile) were developed and broadened to make the show. The original story focused on Clive and Humphrey. Unfortunately, this adaptation felt a little unfinished. It was not clear who the main characters were for a while or where the story was going. The dialogue is not particularly engaging and there are a few abstract elements of movement and staging that felt out of place in a kids show. The characterisation of the characters and the puppetry is well done, it’s just the story that could be fleshed out more. There are some fine performances here from all the cast, and the experience for this first time Spare Parts audience member was overwhelmingly positive. Let’s bring back Punch and Judy shows…