Archive for the ‘BIG Reviews’ Category

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Review – Storm Boy by Barking Gecko

A thunderous beginning of cracking sound made for a dramatic opening to Tom Holloway’s stage adaption of Colin Thieles Storm Boy by Barking Gecko Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company. The long loved story of a little boys heart warming friendship with a Pelican unfolded slowly with room to remember days of our own rambling childhoods filled with open days scouring beaches for shells and treasured scraps.

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Storm Boy with the pelican he raised, Mr Percival.

In todays fast paced technology driven world where boys are often type cast in limited gender roles it was refreshing to watch Storm Boy navigate feelings of loss, disappointment, sadness and connection so sensitively. That this depth of feeling was offered to a young audience was courageous in that so often children’s theatre is stripped of seriousness and depth of emotion despite the fact that kids are daily immersed in a media and commercially driven world heavy with adult concepts and images.

The presence and attention of puppeteers and the generous stillness on stage allowed room for Storm Boys grief to be felt and an opportunity for both children and adults to encounter their own empathy and compassion. Storm Boy was beautifully directed and the whole cast compelled throughout. The funny antics of the pelican puppets sensitively manipulated by Michael Smith and Shaka Cook provided light relief and the sculptural whale skeleton set a beautiful landscape for the story of loss and hope to unfold.  All in all a beautiful BIG night out at the theatre in Perth, definitely a perk of  being on the same side of the country, and wonderful to share the night with Senior editor Luca, age 10, who thought the puppeteers were amazing and loved Fingerbone and Mr Percival. Bookings for the Perth season until October 5th HERE.

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Puppeteers Michael Smith and Shaka Cook with the pelicans and Storm Boy

on Sep 24, 2013
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Engaging kids at Sydney Opera House

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At BIG we are interested in a narrative  that  values irreverent unpredictability as well as invites rigorous, intelligent and imaginative views. As guests of  Sydney Opera House, we were lucky enough to see Miss Ophelia recently and were thrilled to discover the quirky, energetic and poetic work of Netherlands Theatre Company Het Filiaal. We passionately support this kind of live theatre programming for kids that offers developed concepts and an aesthetic that sits outside mainstream, consumer driven culture.

The set of Miss Ophelia immediately sparked our curiosity, looking almost like a working art studio with cardboard cities telling stories in whispers and the 2 actors already on the stage building the anticipation as the children so quietly took their seats. It was striking to see performers with such a powerful sense of presence command attention from so many very young children even before the show had begun. The simple use of paper puppets and the unapologetic and joyful references to pregnancy, birth, relationship and family were refreshing. “My most favourite part was when she was pregnant even though it was really a pillow, and the little paper baby popped out. I know exactly how they did that, it wasn’t a trick”  Twyla, age 4

We loved the quietly spoken Miss Ophelia and her lost shadows and agree that there is enormous value in seeing the most beautiful plays in the world even if they are retold by lost souls. A simple enchanting work in the most magically ordinary ways with a beautiful musical score and the topics of loss, loneliness, ageing and death dealt with so beautfully that the overall experience was uplifting and inspiring.  We were so happy to take away our own shadow puppet theatre and spent the afternoon cutting and characters and telling their true stories. Undiminished immersive arts experiences can provoke creative responses and conversations between children and their adults long after the lights are up. If you had the opportunity to see Miss Ophelia in Sydney let Kids at the House know you loved it so they can keep programming more unusually beautiful and engaging theatre for children.


At the opera House by Twyla, age 4

on Aug 9, 2013
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Underbelly Arts Festival

It was a sparkling Sydney day perfect for a morning ferry ride to Underbelly Arts Festival on Cockatoo Island. Beginning with the adventure of a harbour crossing and a picnic on board, it is easy to inspire excitement and enthusiasm in young children. The mysterious landscape of the island makes any experience there like a kind of treasure hunt and today was no exception. With raised curiosity we ascended dimly lit staircases and secret passageways to find labyrinthine worlds of chandeliers, exposed attics promising secrets and digital interactive sound forests.


ZV Live by Zonk Vision. Twyla making sounds looped into the installation.

On arrival we picked up a kids map which was easy to follow but didn’t really live up to it’s name of Underage Art Users Manual which is a fabulous concept and would have been wonderful if it had offered more opportunity for children to respond directly to the artists work. We were very excited for the Tiny Tableau Vivant workshop and loved the artists costume. Unfortunately the discourse about the work was not in language easily understood and while there was a room full of eager children the set up made it difficult for them to participate successfully.


Tableau Vivant by Penelope Benton and Alexandra Clapham. An enticing feast made entirely of lollies. “I love this one the most because there are so many lollies and even though you can’t eat them the colours are beautiful” Twyla, age 4.


‘Mussels’ by Annika Blau and Lewis Doherty. Beautiful work that surprised us with gently moving robotic mussels hypnotic with their slow opening and closing.

Some questions to help children process and respond to contemporary work:

What do you think is interesting about this work? How does it make you feel? What does it remind you of?

Which work did you like the least? Why?

Which work did you like the most? Why?

What would you create in this space if you could use any material you wanted and had as much help as you needed?


We were happy to find art materials strewn in the Kids Hub for spontaneous responses to the experience of the day except when the sketchbook ran out and there was no more paper!

on Aug 4, 2013
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13 Rooms: An insiders perspective with Paea Leach


Lilly and I were lucky to immerse ourselves in 13 Rooms –  Kaldor Public Arts Projects together this weekend. After our BIG kid Twyla’s experience I was excited to fly in on Friday to witness several of my friends working as performers or ‘interpreters’ in the exhibition. Paea Leach is a long time dance collaborator and friend and she soon ushered us in through the stage door to join the crowds of all ages. (We were also thrilled to meet John Kaldor who was a generous presence across all the hours we were there on each day).
Jo enamoured with the impossibility and tranquility of Xu Zhen's In Just a Blink of an Eye

Jo enamoured with the impossibility and tranquility of
Xu Zhen’s In Just a Blink of an Eye

One of the most talked about rooms features Marina Abramovic ‘Luminosity’ where the work features a single woman lit up naked on the wall. It is a work of trancendence and endurance and quite simple beauty that also bought to the fore the question of artwork that might be inappropriate for children within a space that so clearly invited them in (we were delighted to see cups of coloured pencils on all the tables in the cafe, and children actively responding to their surrounds, participating in the experience in age appropriate ways).The rooms featuring nudity were clearly signed and a guide gave a gentle reminder before you entered. Despite this, during the times we were in the room, a number of children walked in and not one of them disrupted the viewing of the works in a negative way. All watched openly and easily. Our favourite moment was when a young girl of about 3 responded immediately by lifting her t-shirt  – it was a split second response no-one could’ve predicted, and the performer, Paea Leach handled it with the beautiful acknowledgement of a conspiratorial slight smile.
We asked Paea for her responses to this work and of her experience of kids in the mix:
on Apr 27, 2013
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House of Dreaming. A review by Ava, age 10

Ava with FringeWorld faves Frisky and Mannish

My mum takes me to lots of PIAF and Fringe World shows. We counted that we went to more than 20 different shows this year! After HO– USE OF DREAMING I went home to my mum and said it was the best show I had ever been to. I was telling her everything about it for an hour and a half…

By Ava Hart, as dictated to her mum Paula Hart:Inside the ABC studio there’s a whole house… When you look at it it’s like a normal house but it’s got a little twist – there are three doors, a giant bush and a bench. You go inside in threes and before you go into the house you are given a cape each and a bunny hat, a crown or a wizard’s hat. We were also given a little figurine each that matched our hats.

We walked into the house, each through our own door. We sat down at our own little table with a big mirror. We had been told we had to put the figurines on a white dot to turn the lights on. On the tables were postcards, pictures and a telephone. We looked at all the postcards. One said, “don’t forget to bring the parrot,” but we had no idea what that meant. We chatted to each other and wondered what we were supposed to do. Then the phones started ringing.

We each picked up our phone and our mirror showed a face. We could hear these faces talking through the phone, but each of us had our own conversation. They told us the house was magical and gave us each instructions. Now we knew to head to the next room.

The House of Dreaming, by Arena Theatre Company directed by Chris Kohn. Presented at the Perth International Arts Festival 2013 at the ABC Perth Studios.

We were three kids and we were the audience, but we felt like we were in the show. Each room felt different, but we all remembered our instructions to put our figurines on the dot to make the room work. In some rooms there were people acting. When they were acting they were telling us a story about who used to live in the house and what happened to the house. No one had lived there for hundreds of years they said. Sometimes we heard voices or saw projections. The rooms looked like real rooms and everything you could touch was like in a real room. Some rooms were so small all three of us could hardly fit in and sometimes to get to the next room we had to crawl or push through a secret tunnel. I am tall so some things felt tiny when I had to crawl through. At the beginning we were told to take our time and really look at stuff. There was so much stuff to look at that we felt like we had to rush, but we knew we didn’t because we had lots of time to explore.

The way they told the story was incredibly interesting. You didn’t just have to sit and watch the show and see what everything did. It was more exciting to touch everything and be a part of the story. I like that you did it with three people and it was exciting to talk to each other to understand the story. Everyone understood a different side of the story.

The props were really amazing in such a small space. It was exciting to see the film projected on the walls. We liked speaking to real people who were acting because they understood what we were thinking. It was really cool how they used the technology for the figurines, a TV, the telephones and stuff that popped open. It was also amazing how real everything seemed. It was funny when we started speaking to the projections on the wall because they seemed so real. At one point me and my friends were laughing so much because it felt so real. In one dark, black room it smelt disgusting like smoke and fog and yucky stuff. In one room we had to write down our dreams.

It was REALLY good to go without a parent. Parents would tell you how to do it, but it was really good to explore on our own!

on Apr 1, 2013
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BIG at Fringe World

Western Australia’s 2013 Fringe World has taken over the city! There are circus tents on skyline rooftops, the giant sculptured wheel of Mechronos captivating passers by, real life mermaids beckoning, Spiegeltents and fairy lights, and a plethora of performances for kids of all ages. Last weekend we had our BIG team meeting for Issue 4 with Pippa and Luca in a grassed caravan outside the fabulous Lunar Circus Big Top. The Perth team were once again brilliant in their navigation of the draft pages and inspired in bringing missing page links together and telling it like it is! With a continual text stream to Sydney, artworks were chosen, decisions made and a debrief of Game On! all rolled into one VERY hot days work! (40degrees). Following the meeting we enjoyed the Kids Comedy Gala – wonderful collection of artists all presenting at Fringe World, including the hilarious Mr Fatt and his brilliantly irreverent band, the silent film comedy of Tom Flanagan’s Kaput (go see it!) and the endearingly talented Pitts Family Circus. If you are in Perth and have little ones, even an evening stroll through the cultural centre will provide a big night out – so much is there in the atmosphere, sounds, and energy of this incredible festival. A truly inspired and vibrant event. Don’t miss it!

Luca and Pippa work responsively to try out the BIG artwork and projects of Issue 4 Into The Dark

Pippa responds live in the moment to Luca’s dragon in celebration of Chinese New year

We loved meeting The Pitts Family Circus after the show.An awesome act side by side; father and son.

on Feb 17, 2013
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We Don’t Need A Map

Co-curator Erin Coates gives us a small insight into the highly anticipated exhibition We don’t need a map: a Martu experience of the Western Desert that opened at Fremantle Arts Centre with a bang on November 16 and continues until January 20, 2013:

What a journey it’s been – more than two years in the making. With over 1,100 people at the opening, we were completely overwhelmed with the amazing response.
Bringing the desert to the city, We don’t need a map features the distinct and lively work of more than 30 Martu artists from WA’s Western Desert as well as collaborations with other nationally acclaimed artists.

This enormous, gorgeous painting is by sisters Amy French and Lily Long. Karlamilyi is a complex and layered work, brimming with knowledge about native animals and plants, journeys through country, ancestral beings, waterholes and landforms. French and Long’s distinct visual language challenges notions of desert painting, blending figurative and abstract imagery to present an energised landscape that is filled with elements of the seen and unseen world. 

Writers and senior Martu translators worked with the artists to generate interpretative information about the stories and knowledge embedded in this significant painting. Karlamilyi is presented with an interpretive wall diagram and accompanied by recordings of French and Long singing. (A BIG note: watch a brilliant short film of the artists in process here)
One of the hits of the exhibition is a giant inflatable bouncy basket which is based on a hand-woven basket by Martu artist Thelma Judson. Kids and adults alike have taken to this giant playful structure.
Also popular is Yunkurra Billy Atkins’ collaboration with animator Sohan Ariel Hayes (A BIG note: Sohan’s work also features in Issue 3 – Game On!)Cannibal Story brings the senior Martu artist’s striking paintings to life. It’s an evocative animation which depicts armies of honey ants, goannas, Martu weaponry and cannibals descending upon Kumpupirntily (Lake Disappointment).
on Nov 23, 2012

BIG on location at the WOW Festival

An early start saw us bundle the little Sydney BIG kid up and head off on a long car journey to WOW – The Way Out West Festival for Children at  Casula Powerhouse. Running until Saturday, WOW is a festival for kids that that connects directly and immediately with its audience through hands on art and interaction. Twyla had a brilliant time building a Paper Planet with the artists from Polyglot Theatre  and contributing to the Monsters Den that literally grew in front of our eyes. 
 It was a thrill to see our postcards super sized and to watch the response to our BIG mag on display. We are so excited to be beginning a conversation with the fabulous team at WOW and are already talking about a having BIGGER presence at next years festival!

Paper Planet is a world filled with tall, strange cardboard trees, paper leaves, boulders, ponds and other mysterious shapes. Fantastic and unusual animals and birds hang from the branches and sit around the trunks.’
Building the Monsters Den

Spinning a Yarn – A Knit Plastic in Crisis Production

on Jul 13, 2012