Presented by 2022 AWESOME Festival and WAAPA, Lost Little Llama drew large crowds – consisting mainly of families with children under eight – who gathered expectantly around a covered pop up stage in the James St Amphitheatre long before the performance was due to begin.
Narrated by Julia Moody with original music performed by Perth Symphony Orchestra, this half hour ballet performance opened to the call of laughing kookaburras. Denim-overalled dancers appeared, passing a ladder comedically between them. Next to arrive was Llama herself – a tutu-clad dancer with a fluffy llama-eared headpiece – epitomising a young child’s conception of a ballerina, while simultaneously embodying a naive llama; innocent in costume and movement. Kookaburra’s feathered-mohawk-and-double-denim aesthetic was a modern take on a bird costume which subtly highlighted the subversive elements of the Kookaburra character.
The titular Llama, who spent much of the performance succumbing to the manipulations of others, miraculously prevailed against bloodthirsty ticks, a murderous fox, a snapping crocodile, and – most terrifying of all – a false friend. The plot was simple, conveyed clearly through movement and dance choreographed by Andries Weidemann. Ample narration utilised a vocabulary range suitable for the target audience and was playfully complemented by evocative original music, composed by Dr. Emma Jayakumar.
There were some mildly frightening elements when Mr Fox appeared with his ominous saucepan of snakes, thongs, and saliva. He pirouetted and cartwheeled his way across the stage before revealing a cooked teddy bear, whose head he pulled off and ate. None of the children seemed to mind, however, despite the young median age of attendees. After a fox-and-llama pas de deux, the fox tried to cook the llama, but was cooked himself, a la Hansel and Gretel. The llama sobbed, but the kookaburra preened gleefully. No children were traumatised during the cooking of Mr Fox.
Impressive pointe work was apparent throughout, which the llama managed to combine with a distinctly llama-esque strut. As a show performed outdoors during the day, lighting was not a prominent feature of this production, but quality sound and effective use of the available space more than compensated for this fact. Cast interactions with the audience members nearest the stage thrilled attending children, especially those lucky enough to be splashed by the crocodile’s pond.
Lost Little Llama artfully portrays a quest for identity with graceful dancing, strong visual characterisation, and a playful use of props. It combines elements of The Ugly Duckling with Hansel and Gretel and The Gingerbread Man – adding a dash of the Narcissus myth towards the end – to create something fresh yet intrinsically traditional. Engaging and comedic, this fairytale ballet will enchant children, charm parents, and inspire a new generation of aspiring WAAPA students.
Lost Little Llama
The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)
Choreographer: Andries Weidemann
Set and Costume Designer: Maeli Cheryl
Composer: Dr. Emma Jayakumar
Original Music: Perth Symphony Orchestra at West Australia Academy of Performing Arts
Academy of Performing Arts
Recording, post-production editing, and mastering: Kieran Kenderessy
Narrator: Julia Moody
Lost Little Llama was performed from 27 September to 1 October 2022 as part of AWESOME Arts Festival, WA