SPOT @ Heath Ledger Theatre gets 8/10

@ Heath Ledger Theatre (State Theatre Centre)
Saturday, October 26, 2019


Most theatregoers have probably never walked into the Heath Ledger Theatre to find such a commotion. Looking around it was chock full of three, four and five-year-olds, all fidgeting and shouting over each other… And it was just perfect. The kids were excited. They couldn’t sit still, and while they couldn’t sit still, parents desperate to capture their child’s first trip to the theatre were contorting themselves around their wriggling kids to grab a selfie. Joyfully simple tunes were interrupted by farm animal noises and the kids broke the apparent chaos to announce almost in unison “That’s a pig…” As the lights dimmed slightly, all eyes became fixed on the beautifully simple set. A barn to the back, with apple trees and a picket fence in the foreground, all in black and white, with the charmingly hand-drawn aesthetic for which Eric Hill’s Spot books are so well known.

We’re introduced to the small cast. Jake (Enya Daly), Jess (Kailah Cabanas) and Joe (Christopher Vernon), who with beaming smiles set up the simple concept of Joe reading Jake’s favourite Spot the Dog book to him. The book then comes to life as the foreground set is rotated to reveal full colour, and the actors become puppeteers with Daly operating Spot, and Cabanas working Helen the Hippo. The puppets may be simple, with most of the movement being in their head and mouth, but the cast does a brilliant job of bringing them to life. Vernon is particularly outstanding as he bounds around the stage operating Daddy Sam, capturing little mannerisms that any dog owner would recognise immediately.

The plot is simple. The farm animals have gone missing and Spot and Helen, intermittently helped by Daddy Sam, must find them and put them back in the barn. The barn itself is a stunning piece of set design by James Browne. As it’s opened up to reveal the silhouettes of the missing animals, all neon-lit, changing in colour as the characters recover and return the missing animals to their rightful place.

There’s plenty of chance for the kids in the audience to feel involved in the show, with simple sing-alongs and opportunities to yell out to the performers. A highlight for the youngsters was watching Christopher Vernon as Joe, dancing around the stage in Dick Van Dyke meets Playschool fashion, and then doing the routine in reverse after trying to fit a pig into a cow-shaped hole. Kids were also in hysterics at the slapstick moments, such as Jess (Cabanas) turning around and bumping Joe (Vernon) with a ladder repeatedly.

CDP Kids Productions have done an outstanding job of bringing this family favourite picture book to the stage. After 45 minutes of brightly coloured, high energy fun for the kids, and start to finish nostalgia for the adults, everyone left the theatre grinning ear to ear. With more CDP Kids shows coming to Perth for the summer holidays, an afternoon at the theatre comes highly recommended. Just don’t expect it to be a peaceful one.


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