Theatre review: Bluey’s Big Play, QPAC

Pop culture phenomena Bluey and Bingo become puppets in this well-crafted experience for under eights.
Bluey. A group of animation dogs sit on a green carpet on top of floorboards in a bunched up.

Note: this review was written in assistance with Ruby (aged four) and Ellie (aged six).

With global streaming numbers in the billions and rafts of merchandise, including albums, clothes, story books and video games, a theatrical version of Bluey has every right to be a cynical play for some extra cash, as ArtsHub noted in an earlier feature. Thankfully, Bluey’s Big Play delivers a warm, well-crafted experience for a young theatre audience.

Creatively developed in collaboration between Windmill Theatre Company and Ludo Studios (the original team behind the television show), Bluey’s Big Play is a 45-minute narrative play punctuated with moments of audience participation. 

The puppets are well-built, but reveal just how much animators rely on vocal performances and small facial animations to bring the characters to life on television. The characters are large, immovable cylinders with expressive eyes, tails and eyebrows. The puppets are lovely, but can’t match the subtlety of facial animation. This is partly why the occasional attempt at emotional earnestness felt unsuccessful for this tired father constantly saturated in Bluey content. But others around me were touched by the moments of sweetness. 

The story is simple. Bluey and Bingo want to play with Dad, but Dad wants to chill out and scroll on his phone. The kids hide the phone, and shenanigans ensue. This skeletal plot is filled out by a stack of references to favourite episodes: Chattermax, Freeze Dance, The Magic Xylophone, copycats, keepy uppy and the Grannies all make delightful appearances. 

Like the structure of the show’s best episodes, the child-focused plot is underscored by a secondary, more emotional tension focusing on Bluey’s role as a “big sister”. My six-year-old followed every single story beat without pause. 

Brisbane’s cohort of puppeteers are flawless, and the pre-recorded voice cast presents all the polish of the television show. Joff Bush’s phenomenal work as a composer lifts everything. As with the show, Bluey would not be nearly as successful without Bush’s soundtrack.

Finding a well-paced, holistic theatre experience for children under eight is difficult, but Windmill Theatre has created something exceptional. The six-year-old was mesmerised and laughed in all the right places. The four-year-old vibrated with excitement for the entire duration, shouting with joy at every character’s appearance. 

Read: Exhibition review: Brent Harris, TarraWarra Museum of Art

A warning to all parents: the show’s foyer after the show resembles a battlefield, with over-stimulated small children bouncing off the walls or collapsing onto the ground with excitement fatigue. Bring snacks for sustenance. 

Bluey’s Big Play
Original story by Bluey creator Joe Brumm and music by Bluey composer, Joff Bush

Tickets: $44-$84

Bluey’s Big Play will be performed until 20 January 2024.

David Burton is a writer from Meanjin, Brisbane. David also works as a playwright, director and author. He is the playwright of over 30 professionally produced plays. He holds a Doctorate in the Creative Industries.