“Staged like a vintage pop-up book”
Reviewer: Sam Kee
Performance: 21 November 2015
It is simple and straightforward: light entertainment for the young ones and the families.
I thought I would be greeted with a colourful, candy-licious house, like one out of a Hansel and Gretel’s story, but no, the set is mundane. It consists of a rustic farmhouse, a wooden chair, and a few steps of Mr Diggory’s garden.
This set looks like a classic pop-up book.
I am surprised to see Ebi Shankara as Mr Diggory in a children’s play (having only seen him in serious roles in Pigeons and Off Centre). Here, we see the cheeky side of him when he interacts with the young audience. Alecia Kim Chua plays Mrs Diggory, a heart-warming motherly figure. Ghazali Muzakir puppets Tomsk, the Cat. His feline character is not unlike the ‘Talking Cat Tom’, which is a popular interactive app with young children. Elizabeth Loh’s cute, squeaky rendition of tiny Eek, a Mouse wins brownie points with the young crowd. The cast is strong, and definitely more than qualified to give any audience a great performance. We see the puppeteers handle their furry counterparts with great attention to detail.
This 50-minute play also successfully engages the children with some interactive calls-and-responses. The cast receives overwhelming replies from the eager crowd. In the last act, countless hands shoot up to volunteer to pull out the enormous turnip. Mr Diggory must have had a tough time taking his pick.
Amidst all the fun and games, I have my reservations about the values behind this adaptation. Mr Diggory is portrayed as a rather reluctant, lazy farmer, who sits around dreaming to win the enormous turnip prize. By chance, he receives a few enchanted seeds from a magician. Later, Mr and Mrs Diggory reveal their excitement for winning the enormous turnip prize, in a rousing song-and-dance number, claiming that they will be rich! This is in contrast to the original fable, in which the old farmer is rewarded with a giant turnip due to his hard work. Eventually, he shares the turnip with everyone who has helped to pull it out. Sadly, I did not see the idea of ‘reaping what you sow’ in this adaptation. The story seems to have been given a modern ‘update’ that upholds materialistic ideals.
On the plus side, the play does illustrate the value of ‘teamwork’, and all participation matters, including little Eek’s. The little ones are excited about going up on stage to help complete the story. It is delightful to know that at a young age, these children get to experience theatre as an immersive experience that encourages interaction rather than designating them as merely passive witnesses of the story.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
THE ENORMOUS TURNIP by I Theatre
17 November – 6 December 2015
SOTA Drama Theatre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Sam Kee is currently helming the literary and visual arts section at artsrepublic.sg while putting her major in Mathematics to good use at an educational publishing house.