Writer: Emma Dodd (original book)
Director: Samantha Lane
Reviewer: John Kennedy
To maintain a full house audience of parents’ and toddlers’ attention for forty minutes based almost solely on a penguin chick attempting to climb an iceberg slope is a very big ask. Less puppetry, more manipulated soft toys, at least the flippers move. The pace, however, is glacial. The opening sequence where ‘Little One’, as the disembodied voice calls our nestling throughout the show, hatching from the egg is a charming surprise. What is equally surprising and increasingly frustrating is that it is only near to the end that it is matched by the lemon-peel moon and tingling stars backdrop eliciting a much needed ‘Ahhh!’.
There is an inherent jeopardy when adapting very young readers’ story books to performance. Put crudely, how is the narrative, such as it may be, even more so a singular tableau, going to work out over forty minutes? Repetition through participation and predictability are fundamental elements in reinforcing emerging readers’ language and imaginations – they need to be engaged, to anticipate, to be surprised. The performance adaptation needs dramatic effect, the artifice to draw the kids in. This show lacks that engagement. It begins to feel that the emperor penguin is wearing no feathers. The lullaby soundtrack music and song has suggestive elements of Penguin Café Orchestra inspiration; no bad thing there but those potential magical influences fail to transfer let alone enhance or embellish. Me? So far, it’s more like Doh!
Runs until 30 November 2017 | Image: Contributed