Friday, February 10, 2017

The power of a story: The Snail and the Whale

Painting by Junior J, and writing by Lil J, after watching the production. 
Stories are amazing things. They connect people. They sometimes give hope, or inspiration. They can also let you travel the world, without you having to leave your own room! Which is the case in "The Snail and the Whale", a production by Tall Stories in conjunction with KidsFest 2017.

This production is based on the picture book of the same name by author Julia Donaldson, and in it, we see how a father tells this story to his little girl. He has to go off to sea as he is in the Navy, but the story connects him to his daughter across the waters. He records it while he is out at sea, and sends it to her to listen. The two stories are intertwined together, where the spunky daughter imagines herself to be the snail that is going on adventures, while the father is the whale, brave and reliable. The stories are narrated through the grown-up version of the little girl, which helps to tie up the two stories together.

We had the opportunity to watch "The Snail and the Whale" yesterday evening, and the kids and I throughly enjoyed it. I was pleasantly surprised by this stage adaptation of the book. I had the impression it would just be a direct adaptation with lots of under the sea props, but I was so wrong! This story within a story was a delightful approach, and it was heartwarming to see the way the father and daughter played and pretended to go on adventures together. In a sense, it was a reminder to me to enjoy my kids' childhood, and learn to play along with them. It was also meaningful to see how stories can connect parents and children together, and in fact, the idea of having the father record the story was based on a real organisation, Storybook Soldiers, which helps British military personnel record bedtime stories for their children to listen to when they are away. 

The kids also enjoyed the production very much. There were many funny parts, and lots of kidding around between the father and daughter, and the jokes and bantering made them laugh so! Junior J, being older, could catch most of the jokes and was chuckling most of the time, while Lil J also caught on most of the time. They were still repeating some of the funny bits during dinner after the play! Small J was a little lost at times, but he was engaged and sat through the entire show. However, because of the "ping-pong-ing" between the two stories, I felt it might be a little confusing for the younger ones. This production would probably be better appreciated by those aged 5 and up, although I think the slightly younger kids would still enjoy it. It would also be great to read the story with the kids first, before watching this.

The cast was stellar. Tim Hibberd, who acted as the father, was engaging, and really funny (Junior J kept repeating his jokes!), and he and Amy Tobias were a great match for the father-daughter pair. But I was most impressed with Charlotte Mafham, who not only did the narration, but also played the viola for the music accompaniment for the production. From what I read, all the music and sound effects (from the blowing of the ships horns to the rumbling of speed boats) were all produced LIVE on stage using a single viola paired with a microphone and repeat pedal. Which meant that Ms. Mafham not only had to act, sing and narrate, but play the viola and produce all the sound effects! Impressive or what?

I remember the warm fuzzy feeling I had the first time I read the book, because it was such a lovely story about friendship, bravery, and daring to venture beyond our comfort zones. I had that same feeling when I walked out of the theatre after watching this production. All in all, I would say go catch this with your kids, especially your older ones! You can book your tickets here, and details are as follows (it's only playing this weekend, so go go go!):

Dates: Thu (9th Feb) - Sun (12th Feb)
Times: Various timeslots (click here from more details and timeslots)
Venue: KC Arts Centre (20 Merbau Road, Robertson Quay, Singapore 239035) 

Disclaimer: We were kindly sponsored tickets to this production for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own. The photos used in this post are courtesy of KidsFest

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