Last week I took my children to see a performance of Academy Award Winner Shaun Tan’s picture book, The Red Tree, adapted by the Barking Gecko Theatre Company.
It was the first time I had taken my children to see “live theatre”. So in preparation, I sat them down to explain how it is different to a movie, and they were very curious and excited about it.
The book is just beautiful. I so recommend that you read it, or buy it, just to be amazed by how pictures can move your heart. Basically it is a story that uses illustrations to explore the feelings of loneliness and depression. I nearly cried when I first flipped through the whole book.
It is about a girl who wakes up one morning, and her day just goes from bad to worse. She journeys to strange places and finds herself lonely, confused, overwhelmed and living with no direction or hope. But she discovers she has been followed by a red leaf – a symbol of hope and inspiration – and she finds her way home, to a red tree.
The play itself… was very quirky, magical and full of emotion. There was almost no dialogue.
There were some amazing scenes – like when the girl opened a treasure chest and a huge inflatable fish “grew” from it. It hovered over her (symbolising darkness) and it even overshadowed people in the audience too.
My 8yo hated it, because it wasn’t Star Wars. There was no distinct narrative of a story, so he said he “didn’t get it”. But he appreciated that it was “different and interesting”. He just wished someone would talk and say what was going on.
My 6yo loved it. He was literally sitting on the edge of the seat. I could see his eyes bright and attentive throughout the whole performance.
He loved the music (there was a three-man band who made sound effects by banging on pot lids and metal cogs). He loved the lights, the characters, props, acting – it ALL fascinated him to the core. He said he “got it” and knew what was happening at every moment and that it was “so cool”.
We talked about lots of things on the way home – the story and what was going on, what actors do, who made all the props, etc etc.
It was really imaginative and it was a surprising education for my kids into the world of theatre.
(Shaun Tan’s website can be seen here.)