Playing to harsh critics
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
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.