20 October, Spiegeltent, HBAF18 By Rosheen FitzGerald
Energetic 90’s electropop pumps out from a sparkly sun-coloured set as a flurry of families file in, tiny tamariki filtered to cushions at the front, all the better to see. A hand, a foot, a pair of eyes, some elongated twist balloons pop out to tease us, and are rewarded with shrieks and giggles. A pair of Brechtian-faced, Raggedy Androgynous puppets are suspended in a corner and flowers made from balloons and sequins dress the set.
Our spangled, lycra-hosened hosts, the flippantly named Kylie and Jason, burst on stage with an enthusiastic, acrobatic dance routine rooted firmly in the Flashdance school of choreography. They’re pulled up short by an accusation of flatulence which is bounced back and forth between the pair before coming to rest on the children who make up the bulk of the crowd.
From here they develop a hypothesis to be tested throughout the show – Children R (sic) smelly, uncoordinated, lazy, scared and have no imagination. Over the next hour or so, with the assistance of a handful of willing volunteers (special mention to the boss chick in floral leggings who owned the stage with her dancing), they go about burning their strawman to the ground.
The circus tricks are undoubtedly impressive, featuring at least three things I have never seen before – some really accomplished front-to-back pair club juggling; Kylie spinning on her stomach, break-dancer style on Jason’s head; and an egg balanced on an egg balanced on a chopstick, balanced on a chin. But it’s the physical comedy, the S-Club-7 dialled up to eleven buffoonery, that makes this show stand out from the crowd, and, surely must have been instrumental in earning it the Children’s Choice Award at the Edinburgh Fringe.
There are plenty of sly winks to the parents too born from a savvy knowledge that, though kids are the target audience, the grown-ups are the ones buying the tickets, and accompanying their progeny. The soundtrack itself is a trip down memory lane, featuring Daft Punk, Ace of Base, Spice Girls, 2Unlimited, Run DMC and a Boogaloo version of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Gags are delivered with an awkward, slapstick humour that appeals to adults and children alike.
It all comes to a climax with a manic fast-forward sequence that pastiches the staples of children’s entertainment – story time, arts and crafts, cooking – with messy and hilarious results. There’s a sweet moral about self-acceptance baked in too, “Everybody farts, and that’s ok.”
As a parent, the best recommendation for this show has to be the looseness, the unbridled joy it inspired in the children. That alone is well worth the trip. If you missed out today there are matinees tomorrow in Waipawa, and on Monday back at the Spiegeltent. Your children will thank you.