Theatre review: Little Blue Dot, Monash University

What do a team of astrophysicists have to do with making children’s theatre?

The name of the show, The Blue Dot, was a nod to the NASA photograph of Earth, taken on Valentine’s Day 1990 by Voyager 1, around six billion kilometres from the sun. As a point of trivia, it served as inspiration for Carl Sagan’s 1994 book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.

Back to the show. The premise was a child and their father, out camping in the bush in order to see a coming comet. In this scenario, it was the child who educated the dad about the universe and our place in it, and who explained astrophysical concepts, like gravity. 

While the roles of the child and the dad were played beautifully, the show also used puppetry techniques from Lemony S Puppet Theatre to the most magical effect. 

The show was developed with astrophysicists from Monash’s School of Physics and Astronomy, and was commissioned by Monash University Performing Arts Centres with co-commissioning support from Geelong Arts Centre. It was part of the Family Fiesta, Monash University Performing Arts Centres’ annual takeover of children’s live and participatory art and performance.

While the suggested age for Little Blue Dot was five to 12 years old, I really think it would have depended on the child and their interests and those older than 12 could potentially have taken a lot away from the show too. 

There were children younger than five in the audience and, while they didn’t necessarily walk away with a grasp of the whys and how of black holes and a new understanding of the speed of light, they were so utterly transfixed by the magic of the staging and effects that it didn’t really matter. The older ones were able to take much more away from the science and I know I certainly learned a thing or two. 

The biggest surprise was the ending. After reaching a crescendo in which the child had a huge tantrum over not being able to control the universe, so they could see the comet they’d come so far to get a glimpse of, the science intersected with the more human elements of the story to create the most tender, memorable moment. 

The threads of science and humanity were so astutely woven together that I marvelled at the beauty of it. I won’t lie, I shed a few tears and my heart was so full, I felt like I could float into the sky, defying gravity. 

Read: Sonic and graphic review: Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, Scienceworks Planetarium

Brava to everyone who was involved in the production of this show. I hope it finds its way into every single classroom in Australia and beyond. 

Little Blue Dot by Sarah Kriegler and Ben Grant
The Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts
Alexander Theatre, Monash University 

Co-Directors: Jacob Williams and Sarah Kriegler
Producer: Dans Sheehan
Production manager: David Farmer
Designer: Christina Smith
Lighting Designer: Richard Vabre
Sound Designer: Ben Grant
Stage Manager: Blaze Bryans

Cast: James Saunders, Cian Morgan
Puppeteers: Paris Balla, Olivia O’Brien
Monash University collaborating astrophysicists: Dr Rosemary Mardling, Dr Alexander Wallace

Little Blue Dot was performed from 3-5 July 2024 as part of the Family Fiesta.

A veteran journalist, Isabelle Oderberg is a comedy fanatic and has been reviewing comedy for six years. She also reviews restaurants, opera and theatre.