CDP Kids. Dunstan Playhouse. 20 Dec 2020
Julia Donaldson’s books are familiar to most parents and grandparents, and loved by all who know them. Along with illustrator Axel Scheffler, Donaldson has tapped into that mysterious place where children connect with their imaginations, where anything is possible and even more, believable. The Gruffalo (1999), Stick Man (2008) and Zog (2010+) are amongst the most popular of her books; and then of course, there is Room on the Broom (2001).
It’s a simple story of kindness and friendship, and the adventures to be had in a magical world. There is of course a witch, for no self-respecting broom would be without one, and a cat, as no self-respecting witch would be without one of those! And just to be very clear where we’re going here, there’s also a dragon.
The story itself is a fairly quick read, and the plot is liberally expanded to create a 55 minute show. It opens with four friends finding a camping spot, and coming across the Witch. There’s a bit of humour here that goes over the kids’ heads, and this opening goes on a bit long before the storyline is really acknowledged, with some laboured padding to the scene. Nothing seems to happen without interruption, and when we finally get airborne there’s some relief from the short ones.
In this production, Witch isn’t the brightest; her spells don’t work, she’s not a very good listener (as pointed out by Mr Four), she has real trouble starting her broom, and Cat keeps her distracted by feeding her jelly babies. Essentially, Witch is off to give the Dragon a bit of a dressing down about his penchant for witch and chips (although he apparently quite likes kids on a stick as well). She and Cat set off on the broom into the high wind, and she promptly loses her hat. It’s found by a dog, who returns it to her and asks to ride on the broom to the moon. Well, there’s room on the broom and a grateful Witch says yes, much to the chagrin of Cat.
When Witch also loses her bow and then her wand, which are returned by Bird and Frog respectively, the broom gets very crowded indeed!
Dog, Bird and Frog are puppets, and beautifully realised. Songs (music and lyrics by Jon Fiber, Andy Shaw and Robin Price) have been added to the production and each character gets a go round, with Frog’s number the standout. A rollicking southern US twang delights the children and parents alike – who can resist a down home frog?
Of course, the broom just gets too heavy with all these people on board and breaks, leaving Witch on her own to battle the dragon. But alls well that ends well, and the friends turn up in the nick of time to rescue Witch and banish the dragon.
Unfortunately, there’s no program or cast notes distributed with this production and an internet search didn’t clarify the cast in this performance.
While the energy was a bit lacking, it was their third performance of the day and once the storyline kicked in, the audience was more than happy to listen to the unfamiliar parts. A bit more audience interaction would have helped them relate; what little there was seemed almost an afterthought, with minor reaction from the kids.
Overall, an enjoyable show; with music, puppets and witches, what’s not to like?
When: 19 to 23 Dec
Where: Dunstan Playhouse