Weekend 1 of the school holidays and little people were seen about town. At the theatre, the seats were packed with excited faces, joyful carers, and an atmosphere of 100% concentration. There wasn’t a touch screen in sight. Such are the joys of theatre for the young as seen at Irish company CoisCeim’s children’s work, The Wolf And Peter.
A story brought to life with live music, this was wordless storytelling which kept its audience enraptured with its energetic and athletic physicality. An old-fashioned classic, this version has a 21st Century narrative ‘flip’ and eco-edge: this revisioning sees Peter befriend the wolf, and is told from the perspective of the creature. He’s also a rap-wolf, in Converse runners, with a midriff top boasting Bieber abs. He is one funky canine!
The characters of the story are Peter, the Duck, the Pigeon, the Cat, and the Wolf found in a forest. Children see themselves as the protagonist, Peter, who ‘walks out one morning into the meadow…’ and the show allows the joys of meeting animals in their natural habitat.
CoisCeim (from the Irish word for footstep) are experts at physical theatre. A fit ensemble of five actors, they showcase mime, acrobatics, dance, and clowning, drawing pictures with their bodies, allowing children’s imaginations to fill in the outlines. There is non-stop movement about the entire floor space. We thrill to group work, solos, partnering and contact improvisation, as well as delightful piano twinkling.
Sergei Prokofiev’s adored composition, written to introduce children to the instruments of an orchestra, tells much of the story with it’s vibrant instrumentation and iconic solos. These awaken in us the spirit of childhood and imaginative adventuring, adding piquancy and punch, much like the music in Looney Tunes’ animation.
A set of lime green poles in a triangle formation up stage made for a ‘forest’ and from this terrain, the characters drifted, hid, and watched. The production uses humour to invite audience interaction and this youngest audience sat upright in their seats, mouthing gasps of ‘ah!’ and warning cries of ‘Peter…be careful, Peter!…’.
Delights of this entertaining hour include the marvellously playful costuming, with a Grandfather Clock fashioned atop one man’s head as Time, and Pigeon with his grey tuxedo with upturned ‘tail’. The Duck is hilarious in bright yellow, with flippers and a floatie, and his sidewood waddle! The cast relish their time on stage, introducing each time to small eyes the delights of each character.
The show ran just the right length of time as we traversed from the actual to the magical. Thrilling in its final climax, four wolves merged to dance with Peter as one tribe, eventually collapsing backwards into the forest, beneath a shimmer of falling gold.
Glancing across the crowd of expressive faces beside me, I knew theatre as storytelling was alive and well for the kids of the digital age!
Sarah W. is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the bold and non-traditional performance platforms. On the street or in the box seat, she looks for quality works that push the envelope.
Peter and The Wolf runs 1 – 2 July, 2 & 6pm Saturday, 11am & 2pm Sunday, and various ‘relaxed performances’ (60 mins) at Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne. The venue is accessible.
See here for future performance dates of CoisCeim Dance Theatre in Australia.