Jamie and Tree Giraffe in Night Zoo. Supplied.
Night Zoo explores the special connection between humans and animals and the importance of caring for another living thing. Jamie is a little lass who lives in a fast-paced busy city, and from a window high above the bustling streets, she dreams of making friends with animals. The city is unnamed but the universal theme of not being allowed pets in apartments and rentals rings true worldwide – although perhaps somewhat less to Perth and Freo kids who are unlikely to have ever walked into an apartment, let alone a high-rise one.
The whole show is ridiculously cute, but like great children’s movies, most Spare Parts Shows normally capture both the cutesy factor and the heart strings, whereas this gets stuck at cute.
Performers Kylie Bywaters and Isaac Diamond do a fabulous job in all their roles, no mean feat as there are many, and will no doubt be referred to as the “wheely shoed” people by young audience members reflecting on the show.
Lee Buddle has again composed a wonderful score, the jazzy sections of which are particularly fabulous and really gives the simple set a new dimension.
As usual, the puppets are divine, and designer/puppet maker Iona McAuley has created deliciously oversized and personality laden animals, and the little girl Jamie is divine – a simple swing of her skirt evokes a movement familiar to ever parent of little girls.
Jamie and Elephant in Night Zoo. Supplied.
One of the truly beautiful parts of all Spare Parts shows occurs after the final curtain, where audience members are invited to ask questions to the actors. Hearing children ask how puppets are made, how shows are written, why actors were performing certain movements and the like shows how truly engaged and fascinated they became, and that is true music to a parents/educators/writers ears.
Filled with slapstick and goonish humour, I did want Night Zoo to dig a little deeper as the scope for connection between (little) humans and animals is so very rich, and I think the script was simplified to a point where the minimum age for the audience would easily include toddlers, as this is a perfect chance to hook extra little ones on the magic of theatre – but as with every Spare Parts show I left with a smile on my dial and full of wonder at the art of puppetry.
I’m off to search the internet for some roller shoes!
3 stars ★★★
The Night Zoo
Recommended for ages five and above
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
22 September – 6 October 2018
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle