Play­ing to harsh crit­ics

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

One spring morn­ing in Welling­ton, a pink worm pops out of a hole in the ground.

It’s wear­ing sun­glasses, and snick­ers in a smoky jazz voice. The chil­dren gasp, then howl with laugh­ter as the worm snatches up leaves to eat and poos three worm poos on the grass.

It’s a joy to sit in on the lat­est pup­pet theatre show from Pau­ata­hanui pup­pet mas­ter Peter Wil­son’s Lit­tle Dog Bark­ing Theatre Com­pany, Lit­tle Kowhai Tree. The chil­dren’s re­ac­tions are im­me­di­ate – they roll on the floor with mirth, cover their faces in fear and shout help­ful com­ments to the pup­pet char­ac­ters.

Mr Wil­son spent 15 years as di­rec­tor of Welling­ton chil­dren’s cen­tre Cap­i­tal E, but left in 2010 to write and di­rect plays for very young chil­dren in small, in­ti­mate set­tings.

Lit­tle Kowhai Tree

Kowhai Tree

is the third pro-

Kowhai Tree, duc­tion Mr Wil­son and his com­pany have toured, and will visit schools and kinder­gartens in Welling­ton, Manawatu and the Wairarapa for the rest of 2012.

It’s not easy per­form­ing to three to sixyear-olds: young kids have short at­ten­tion spans and sur­pris­ingly don’t en­joy too much au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion – it jolts them from the story. The chal­lenge in­spires Mr Wil­son.

‘‘We don’t do it be­cause they’re an au­di­ence wait­ing to grow up, but be­cause they’re an au­di­ence in their own right,’’ he says. ‘‘It teaches them about imag­i­na­tion, about lan­guage, colour, move­ment, mu­sic, en­ter­tain­ment, and that they can cre­ate their own sto­ries and act them out.’’

It’s im­por­tant to get the bal­ance right with these hon­est young au­di­ences – ‘‘They’ll tell you what they think.’’

Lit­tle Kowhai Tree is about the life cy­cle of a kowhai and the an­i­mals that live around it. Beau­ti­fully crafted pup­pets swoop and shimmy on a small stage, manned by Mr Wil­son and ac­tors Shona Mcneil and San­dra Nor­man Shaw. The show’s mu­sic was writ­ten by Loughton Pat­trick.

Tas­ma­nia-born Mr Wil­son has trained un­der pup­pet ex­perts in Ja­pan, Rus­sia and the UK, and is an ac­knowl­edged mas­ter of the art. He es­tab­lished Perth’s Spare Parts chil­dren’s theatre 30 years ago, be­fore mov­ing to New Zealand and tak­ing up the Cap­i­tal E job.

No strings at­tached: Pau­ata­hanui pup­pet mas­ter Peter Wil­son’s new­est pro­duc­tion, Lit­tle

will visit schools in Tawa and Plim­mer­ton this week. He is with ac­tor San­dra Nor­man Shaw and the show’s tui and more­pork pup­pets.

Gig­gles ga­lore: Ames­bury School new en­trant Ankana Basak, 5, got a kick out of a worm char­ac­ter’s an­tics when Lit­tle

vis­ited Chur­ton Park last week.

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