For anyone looking for a child-friendly Adelaide Festival experience, this enchanting show is an excellent pick. In a fast-moving world where we sometimes wonder where the good ol’ days have gone, The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean is a brilliant, fascinating mystery adventure.
The production, named Best Show for Children at the 2012 UK Theatre Awards, is presented by Scotland’s award-winning Catherine Wheels Theatre Company and stars puppeteer Shona Reppe. Its story explores the Victorian era and focuses on a lonely watchmaker.
Reppe is Dr Patricia Baker, a scraptologist who examines scrapbooks, investigating their contents and discovering their origins. She wastes no time introducing herself and this quirky hobby of hers. Almost immediately, she presents the latest scrapbook to her keen audience, involving the young theatregoers in her new mission and calling them her “scrapettes”.
There were giggles a plenty from the young audience, which on opening day comprised mainly of school children. They called out suggestions and appeared very intrigued; there were certainly lots of little heads leaning forward in the final third of the story.
Reppe is an engaging, lively and enthused actor in this one-person show, and the design and seamless integration of technology in the production is flawless. Gill Robertson’s clever direction means sounds, projections, footage, music and effects dazzle the senses throughout. For example, as Dr Baker moves her magnifying glass over the worn pages of the scrapbook, we see its contents illuminate a nearby projection screen on the back of a trunk.
It’s a brilliant move incorporating sophisticated technology in a show that focuses on a time period more than 100 years ago. Film designer Jonathon Charles clearly had a strong grasp of the vision and ensures the footage is perfectly suited to the era. It is hard to fault such painstaking attention to detail.
Of course, little ones need a chaperone to this one and thankfully there are plenty of laughs for the parents as well. A top-notch piece of international theatre that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean is being performed at the Odeon Theatre, Norwood, until March 9, with twice-daily daytime sessions.
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