Tempo Tumbles into The Riverside!


Tempo Rating

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Tempo opens with the Flying Fruit Fly Circus ensemble spilling out of the body of a grand piano and executing a precise and impressive flurry of floor acrobatic athleticism. Each tumble, jump, air, somersault and roll (to name a few) were set to music, and, thanks to Musical Director Ania Reynolds and Director Jake Silvestro, it was an impressive beginning to the show.

This story begins with a conductor ready to start a performance but quickly realising that the orchestra hasn’t turned up, so acrobats arrive to fill their place. The white grand piano is central to the show, and it encompasses not only the entertainers inside its belly but also acts as a stage where performers lift off from the closed lid to do acts such as aerial silk, aerial hoop, and hanging strap acrobatics.

These young Australians, aged twelve to eighteen, attend Australia’s National Youth Circus in Albury, NSW. Tempo showcased their skills in multiple areas – each person played instruments as well as performing in their act.

The ensemble sustained their energy and smiles onstage throughout. As well as acrobatics, the Flying Fruit Fly Circus rounded out their show with a touch of traditional stage magic of the most famous audience tricks, such as the shrinking and growing magic wand and the three overturned cups with disappearing balls. The children in the audience would have loved these magical illusions.

Other acts called for strength and balance, such as the upside-down handstand on pedestals and the tower of three people standing on each other’s shoulders. Juggling was one highlight for me, with as many as four from the ensemble tossing their juggling pins between them as they moved – a well-choreographed act.

In another scene, the performers used everyday home objects to create sound percussion, such as metal spoons clanking, an upside-down cooking pot as a drum, a filing tub lid and even a broom to hit the floor with. This type of percussion was a nod to the good ole days when toddlers used whatever they could to create sound. It was a clever trip down memory lane for me.

The performers always smoothly transitioned into the next act. They conveyed humour to the audience not verbally but through body language, such as raising eyebrows and miming at the right time. They were all multiskilled and cheeky performers with great showmanship.

As there was a lot of floor acrobatics, everyone’s movement around the stage was very well coordinated as they worked together to create a ‘chaotic’ dance with physical feats such as helping their performers launch off their hands to do several air somersaults, bouncing off the seesaw platform to fly through the air and other flowing movements.

True to its name, Tempo, this show was all about combining music and movement together, so they complemented each other. Whether it be using shaker eggs in time to an electric guitar or showcasing diabolo skills in time to the music or unicycling, the acrobatic athleticism of these kids showed why they study under the masterful tutelage of lead trainers Bec Neill and Ben Lewis.

Tempo is currently touring Australia. Performance time: 60 minutes. Tickets: $38- $44.50

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Venture Down the Rabbit Hole with Alice in Wonderland

Alice In Wonderland

Alice In Wonderland Rating

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Under a sunny and exceptionally warm Autumn Saturday, families with young children arrive at the Pioneer Gardens expecting to see beloved characters from Alice in Wonderland. They were soon introduced to the White Rabbit (Stella Coppola), who bounded amongst the picnic blankets, announcing she was late, late, late!

So begins this outdoor performance in the Pioneer Garden by The Australian Shakespeare Company. It’s always a challenge to entertain children in the younger age bracket, as their attention span can be limited at times. I wondered how the company would capture their attention for the 80-minute show.

It was a clever move to have a “children’s only” space in front of the brightly coloured set; no adults were allowed. This enabled the kids to be a captive audience and, therefore, able to be directly talked to by the characters. The regular encouragement of audience participation engaged the little people, as they were able to yell out answers and sing chants.

The director, Dennis Manahan (also acting in the show as Bill the Lizard and The Mad Hatter), has put together an entertaining show, giving the actors opportunities to explore their character quirks with dancing, singing and merriment. Alice (Madeline Calder) led the storyline. There was clever staging as she encountered the various characters, particularly the huge caterpillar played by Ross Daniels. With various parts of this rather large caterpillar spilling out of different windows, with the head above the roof and the bottom half on the floor, the magnitude of this caterpillar was clearly achieved.

Another imaginative part showed that Alice had grown to giant proportions. Oversized inflatable arms extended from the open windows and flapped around, almost squashing the other characters. This made for a funny scene where the children laughed uncontrollably.

Original songs carried on the storyline, combined with some catchy dancing that added to the light-heartedness of the show. The silliness of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum’s song and dance was very amusing to watch.

The make-up and costumes of all characters were carefully constructed to make them believable. Even Humpty Dumpty made an appearance as a face on a high wall with puppet arms and legs, which I found quite endearing.

The involvement of adults who they asked to be a part of the volunteer ‘card deck march’ would have been a highlight for kids to see. The giant cards slipped over the adults’ heads sandwich board style, which was a clever way to involve the audience in a game on the grass. The caterpillars (the children) entered a caterpillar crawling race, finding their way from the start to the finish line whilst avoiding the card adults’ legs!

At the end of the show, The Mad Hatter invited children to have a cast photo with them. This was a lovely gesture to complete the Alice in Wonderland performance. The Australian Shakespeare Company showcased a lovely afternoon’s entertainment for children and their accompanying adults, which included grandparents as well. Children aged around 3 -5 would love this show.

Alice in Wonderland is playing at The Pioneer Gardens at the Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney from 13 -28 April 2024. Tickets range from $25 in the off-peak period to $30 in peak time. A group of 4 admission tickets are $110. Children under 12 months are admitted free.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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A Playful Parody – Potted Potter Returns to The Seymour Centre

A Playful Parody – Potted Potter Returns to The Seymour Centre

Potted Potter Rating

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What began as a skit in 2005 to entertain people lining up to buy Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in a London bookstore has become Potted Potter, a smash hit sell-out show all around the world. This modest five-minute skit grew to incorporate the first six books in a one-hour show in 2006. Creators Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner expanded their show in 2007 to include JK Rowling’s seventh book, which is where the magic lies in this current form.

It’s easy to see how Potted Potter has outlasted other parodies over the last 17 years. The formula is simple – make your audience laugh! And laugh we did for almost all of the 70-minute performance. There were audience members of all ages, from kids dressed up in their favourite Hogwarts house uniform as others donned witch’s pointy black hats to parents and the older generation attendees. At times, it was similar to a kid-friendly ‘clean’ stand-up comedy set, complete with a lot of audience participation and laughs. One part I shan’t spoil had the audience involved in a group game.

The script was deceptively clever, delivered in a rapid conversation between the two characters, Brendan and Scott. Despite the fast narration, there were no fumbles or tripping over the quick-witted lines. Paired with comedic physicality and perfect timing, the character’s expressions sometimes gave away their surprise when interacting, hinting at some smart stage improvisation. This appeared to keep the script fresh and was delivered so well that it was hard to tell whether it was improv or really good acting. Either way, it worked. They cleverly wove in lines that were particularly Australian too, at one time referring to the ‘bin chicken’, which made everyone laugh.

The set design by Simon Scullion was purposely basic, which didn’t place them at Hogwarts; rather, it added to the charm of a parody. The same was true for the costumes and props used. It was like Turner and Clarkson raided their dress-up and toy box at home and used what they had, such as a stuffed snake and various wigs. Rather than detract from the performance, they added a comfortable charm and a good spice of fun to the Potted Potter experience.

Composer Phil Innes created an air of Harry Potter expectation as the audience was being seated. The music as each book tale begins is cute in the repetition.

The performance also featured some magic, as expected from a book about this topic, as well as a hilarious musical duet complete with a dance break between the two characters to close the show. One of my favourite lines delivered by a ridiculously dressed character was, ” Look it up in the book of cool.”

This quirky performance of Potted Potter will appeal to people of all ages if you expect a lighthearted and quick tour through the seven books’ plot points.

Do you need to have read all seven books to enjoy this performance? No, not at all. It certainly referred to certain things that people who love the Harry Potter series would quickly understand; however, those who hadn’t read all the books gained an understanding of what was going on easily. The characters were all there, in fine form, represented by the two actors.

Potter Potter An Unauthorised Harry Experience is playing at The Seymour Centre, Sydney, from 12 – 21 April and will tour Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth throughout May.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Circus of Illusion Comes to The State Theatre

Circus of Illusion

The Circus of Illusion show has entertained audiences all around Australia for years. Produced, directed, and featuring acclaimed Australia’s Got Talent finalist illusionist Michael Boyd, it includes a short mix of acts that feels as though it is trying to appeal to a wide range of people. As such, it came across as more of a vaudeville variety show.

As the name suggests, the show opened with the Circus of Illusion’s ringmaster, Idris Stanton, who prepared the audience for the evening by lightening the mood with his comedic opening. The magic of Idris hosting was similar to him being the MC at a Comedy Festival, which appealed to the front row and the wider audience. Idris was also a performer in the show, and his percussion juggling act, accompanying a Queen song, was original and entertaining, as was his dangerously skilled juggling act of two knives and a working chainsaw.

One act included an aerial hula hoop artist, who displayed exceptional skills working with many hoops in a show of spinning and balance. At one stage, some hoops were LED lit and created a colourful display of fast-moving circular lights.

Other acts were illusions, during which Michael Boyd involved the audience and invited his young guests onto the stage to help him perform his illusions. “Do you believe in magic?” Michael asked his guest apprentices, to which they enthusiastically nodded. It was heart-warming to watch his connection with the kids, and no doubt, these children will believe in magic even more after being his guest apprentice!

Michael Boyd came onto the stage for more time than the first set during the second half to perform more illusions, some of which left me wondering how they were done. He performed them with practised ease.

The true standout of the evening for me and, it seemed, the audience, judging by their cheering, was Sascha Williams’ impressive Rola Bola performance at the end of the first act. Performing with his wife, Sascha displayed incredible skills balancing atop a variety of cylinders and ramps. At one stage, he even played the electric guitar while balancing high on several items.

Scattered throughout the show were a few dance routines performed by two dancers. The choreography complemented the music, and the dancers’ movements were precise and agile. Their costumes were beautiful, adorned with sequins and headwear with feathers. The glitz of a stage show was well and truly incorporated into the costume design for Circus of Illusion.

The stage setting was very simple, with a few standing lights and white drop sheets in the background. With a few more props incorporated into the design, they perhaps could have matched the glamour of the costumes.

Circus of Illusion is an entertaining show best suited for families with children and audience members who would expect a light, entertaining night out rather than a death-defying, thrilling night of illusion.

Circus of Illusion was performed at The State Theatre on Saturday, March 30, 2024. It consists of two 45-minute acts with a twenty-minute interval.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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