Room on the Broom, a popular children’s book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, provides the text for this successful touring show presented by CDP Theatre Producers (whose other works include The 91-Storey Treehouse and The Gruffalo).
The appealing and interesting stage design has two large, bluish trees – with the branches cut and the trunks subtly covered in broomsticks – standing either side of a silver blue moon. The set looks good, although it doesn’t transform imaginatively, while the show’s puppets are colourful and well manipulated by the actors so they become animated, lively characters.
The story begins with three men and a woman enjoying the outdoors; they’re camping and playfully hopping into sleeping bags when they spy a witch’s silhouette in the sky. The not-so-capable witch is accompanied by her travelling companion, a cat, and gradually they are joined by the puppet characters of the dog, bird and frog, who all plead for a ride on the broomstick not meant for five.
The actors begin with energy and maintain it throughout the 55-minute performance. The costumes are also appealing – especially that of the red dragon, which looks remarkably like one of the young men who is dressed in pyjamas made from red sleeping-bag material.
Room on the Broom races through its scenes with entertaining characterisations, humour and puppetry. However, interaction with the young audience is minimal, and dramatic moments – such as the broom splitting, the dragon being fought and a journey to the moon – are rushed rather than highlighted.
Most of the young audience members seemed amused, but not totally absorbed in an imaginary world. The songs are fun, though not particularly memorable, and there are plenty of adult jokes that go over the heads of the youngsters.
This production was originally created by UK company Tall Stories, so there has been plenty of time for it to become a slick, well-rehearsed show. The performances are certainly good, but perhaps it has lost a little spontaneity and magic along the way.
Room on the Broom is playing at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Dunstan Playhouse until December 23. It is suitable for ages three and up.
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