“A burst of color and suspense for children and parents alike”
Reviewer: Casidhe Ng
Performance: 14 May 2017
Players Theatre has been a key proponent of children’s theatre for quite a number of years. The company has a remarkable history beginning from the early 2000s, almost producing a show a year ranging from a selection of Roald Dahl’s works to classics such as Charlotte’s Web. It’s no surprise then, that their most recent offering is an adaptation Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.
Gaiman’s novella follows Coraline Jones, a young but adventurous child who moves into a new neighborhood with her parents, meeting strange neighbours such as retired actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, as well as Mr. Bobo, who owns a rat circus. Unhappy with her parents’ neglect of her and desiring greater adventures, Coraline becomes interested in a locked door that turns out to be a portal to another world with her Other Mother, the evil Beldam, and her Other Father.
The first half of the show begins well enough: Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are portrayed skillfully with resounding falsettos, while Mr. Bobo, Coraline’s Mother and Father play serviceable roles in the progression of the story. Numerous musical numbers appear throughout the show as well, though they add little to the audience’s comprehension. Ultimately, as is evident as the second half unfolds, the strength of this production is its costume and sound.
In arguably the most enchanting scene of the play, Coraline’s mother reveals that a wall of bricks lie behind the locked door and leaves Coraline to her own devices. Upon her departure, the lights dim and the door opens, a heavy smog emerging from the hole, its interior and the fog awash in green light.
The children gasp.
In another scene, Coraline faces a warped version of her Other Father, punished by the Beldam: he is an ugly and formless mass, with uneven eyes and strange features and a disembodied voice, calling for help. These, amongst many other arresting stage pictures, find their home in the offbeat and fantastical world realised by Players Theatre, as do other effective directorial choices that immerse the children in the surreal.
These compositions are notable examples of the delicate balance that is Coraline, a mix of Gaiman’s lighthearted and darker themes. This production creates shocking stage pictures without being overtly terrifying. The cartoonish and overblown designs of the costumes work particularly well, and the most impactful scenes tend to be the simplest: such as that of the spirits of three little children set against a black backdrop.
Gaiman’s popular and endearing story demonstrates his masterful ability to explore complex themes with a simple but arresting narrative. Players Theatre translates this to the stage with seeming ease, hitting some right notes with key characters, symbols, sound and costumes that make up for other shortcomings. Most importantly, Coraline’s messages stay intact: to the parents – pay attention to the perceptibility of their children. To the children – look closely at things, since they are not always what they seem. With this, I sincerely hope Players Theatre continues to stage productions like this providing opportunities for children to experience the magic of theatre.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
CORALINE by Players Theatre
13 – 26 May 2017
Ulu Pandan Community Club Theatrette
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Casidhe Ng is currently serving the nation but takes time out of his civilian hours for theatre.