Traditional recipe a winner for children

Anticipation was high at the Regent last evening as hundreds of children, most appearing to be in the 3-7 age range, waited with their parents to see Room on the Broom.

When the auditorium doors opened there was a rush to find the assigned seats, much chatter and waving to friends, and a certain amount of impatient wriggling until the great moment arrived, the lights went off and the performance began - probably the first live theatre many of them had seen.

The well-loved children's book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler makes a fine basis for a stage presentation.

It has traditional elements children love, starting with a nutty witch who's hopeless at magic and her faithful but cynical cat. The other animals - a hyperactive dog, a bird who likes broomstick travel better than flying, a hillbilly frog and a dragon whose favourite meal is witch and chips - complete the character list.

Unlike the book, the show has potential for singing, dancing and the audience participation that is a staple of children's theatre.

Actors Edwin Beats, Ryan Dulieu, Cally Castell and Katie Burson have their work cut out. As well as the book's characters, they play some hapless campers who just happen to be in the forest where much of the action takes place, and who bookend the story. The dog, bird and frog are represented by delightful puppets expertly manipulated by Beats and Dulieu.

Bright colours, catchy tunes, a pleasant blend of predictability and surprises, and plenty of chances to yell and clap ensure that Room on the Broom is a winner for younger children and a great introduction to the magic of theatre.

Presented by Tall Stories theatre group, it is touring New Zealand and its second and final performance in Dunedin will be this evening.

-By Barbara Frame

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