The Tove Jansson classic, Moominpapa at Sea. Photo by Jessica Wyld.
Through theatre we all hope to be transported into the hearts, minds and experiences of the characters, recognising and understanding their actions and feelings which in turn encourages communication and learning empathetically – all within a constructed, safe environment. Plus, it’s great fun, and it is an easy way for children to see things from different perspectives.
For this school holiday season, Spare Parts Theatre have taken the seventh book from the much-loved Swedish children’s Moomin books by Tove Jansson, Moominpappa at Sea.
Moominpappa, dissatisfied with life in Moomin Valley, hustles his family of Moomintrolls on an adventure to find a fresh start in a lighthouse on a little island in the middle of the sea.
It’s a simple tale of friendship, family, loneliness and the true meaning of home, explored in a gentle way and encompassed within the calming landscape of nature and sea. Life is apparently simple but some mysteries surface – what has happened to the last lighthouse keeper and how is Moominmamma to grow her flowers?
Despite the simple backdrop there are some complex issues at play here, which the 174 pages of the book allows room to explore thoroughly, albeit in a completely child friendly manner, whereas this 40 minute adaptation left me, a grown woman, a little stumped.
I loved that the actor was on stage as the audience entered, as that demands immediate attention and curiosity, and placing the stage manager on stage in full view and enabling the easy interaction between established and introduced characters is nothing short of genius. Lee Buddle’s sound composition was again brilliant.
Michael Barlow stars in the Tove Jansson classic, Moominpapa at Sea. Photo by Jessica Wyld.
At its best I truly think this company is one of the shining stars of its genre in Australia, but I struggled to find the elements that have enthralled me in the past. I was truly busting for a Moomintroll to smile, wink or wiggle an ear, but with their limited movement it was difficult to be truly engaged.
Moominpappa at Sea reeked of cuteness and the children will love it, but I wanted more.
Rating: 3 stars ★★★
Moominpappa at Sea
Adapted from the Book by Tove Jansson
14 January – 2 February 2019
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle