By Karyn Hodgkinson
It has been great to see the growth of The Australian Shakespeare Company since its inception in 1987. It is well known for presenting quality and accessible theatre in a range of locations – indoor and outdoor – featuring fine actors. It now presents theatre for the enjoyment of all ages, with often several shows running concurrently, particularly during the summer season, when families have the time and space to treat themselves and their children to unique experiences.
Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies is one of these delightful experiences for small children. I took two children with me, who were 51/2 and nearly 4 years respectively, as a litmus test for this production. There were children there as young as 1 year and many were dressed in their finest fairy regalia. It’s coincidental that this show centres around Tinkerbell, the character from Disney’s version of Peter Pan, who also appears in the city Myer Christmas windows this year.
From the start we are greeted at the door by a friendly fairy, whose mere presence whets our appetite for what is to come. The stage is set as a magical place where supernatural creatures dwell, reality is suspended and anything can happen. Suddenly Tinkerbell appears. She announces that she has lost her wings and that she needs to go to Fairyland to find them. In keeping with the title of the play, we are transported to Fairyland and the four fabulous fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream appear – Peaseblossom, Moth, Cobweb and Mustardseed. Much attention has been given to each fairy’s costume and makeup so there is no mistaking who is who.
With textual references to Shakespeare’s play, the fairies announce that they have lost their Fairy Queen and that maybe Tinkerbell can help in this search, especially if she had wings. To achieve this goal, they do ‘wander everywhere swifter than the moon’s sphere’.
This is a highly physical show, which includes acrobatics. At least two of the cast flip and cavort in mid air, making their entrance and many other moments, memorable. The show is also full of funky songs, often drawn from rock and rap – enjoyable for children and adults alike. Sung in fine harmony and enhanced by lively choreography, many of the songs are also interactive, including opportunities for the children to shout out the direction the characters should go, or respond to certain cues when the opportunity arises.
The highlight of the show is going to Bubbleland where the space is filled with bubbles pouring from the stage and from characters’ bubble-blowing apparatus. All the children were delighted by this, and time is given to savour this moment, with children and carers popping bubbles or basking in them.
The children also took great delight in the antics of Mustardseed, played by Coleman Shook. Mustardseed is the biggest and least ‘intelligent’ of the fairies, accentuated by his madcap physical comedy and skilful acrobatics. Coleman also provides the brawn for Cobweb, played by Ciera Shook, also an acrobat. In fact the talented Shook family dominate this cast with four out of the five characters ably played by them. Sue-Ellen Shook and Cameron Shook are well cast as Moth and Tinkerbell respectively, though the presumed leading character of the show, Tinkerbell, often seems drowned out by the other fairies. The odd man out, Ellie Hannah Carroll, is a winning Peaseblossom, who amusingly, craves ‘social attention’.
Well, the litmus test came thumbs up. My child ‘reviewers’ were spellbound the entire time and enthusiastically reported all to their parents. What better recommendation?