It appears some of the young audience members know the story of Cat and the excitement of seeing it is evident as they make their way up the State Library stairs in a jitter of orderly chaos. At the top of the stairs they are greeted by Windmill staff who seat them in kindergarten groups and introduce them to what is about to happen. They take off their shoes and wait patiently when music is heard off, a single gentle sound. Butterflies flutter in on the melody. These small, enchanting finger puppets quieten the crowd of children; individuals hold their hands out for the butterflies to land. The butterflies touch down from one hand to the next and on, and then guide the children to the performance space, into Cat's backyard where they are directed to sit on the lawn.
The performance space surrounds the audience; there are garden paths through the audience for the performers and minimal setting around the perimeter of the space. Morag Cook's set design gives the impression that she has selected her tools out of a kindergarten, utilising materials children themselves may use in play. There is a mix of materials; fabric with soft watercolour finishes and dog kennel and house facades that could be a cubbyhouse setting.
This is the space in which the story of Cat unfolds. The story traces a day in the life of Cat in her backyard and shows the trials and excitement living with the other creatures there; the butterflies, a caterpillar, frog, dog, chicken, mouse, birds and fish. The multi-skilled actors, Jada Alberts, Jacqueline Cook and Ninian Donald, work hard embodying some of the animals as well as singing, operating a range of puppets and telling the story of Cat. The performers' movement work with Jeff Meiners results in a wonderful incarnation of the animals that make an appearance. Donald's dance background pays dividends alongside his presence as a performer, which totally engages the audience, particularly in the role of Dog.
Music is beautifully worked into the body of the performance with pre recorded and live sound which Glyn Lehmann has linked wonderfully with instruments familiar to kindergarten children such as terracotta flower pots and wind-chimes, a glockenspiel, recorder and range of percussive instruments.
Director Cate Fowler has woven a mix of performance elements, in particular the physical space, the sound, imagery and physicality of the performers, that has regard for the imaginative intelligence of young children and handles the theatrical portrayal of a familiar story with fun and humour. Cat is the first show developed by the company through the Picture Book to Performance initiative established by Windmill and The Advertiser Little Big Book Club. It is a wonderful introduction to live performance for very young audiences and their adult chaperones. It provides a familiar, interactive and fun environment in which to enjoy the art of live performance.
Windmill Performing Arts presents
State Library of South Australia
3, 5, 6 July 10.30 am & 1.30pm - schools performances
4 July 10.30 am, 12pm & 1.30pm - schools performances
7 July 10.30 am & 12pm
9 – 14 July 10.30am & 1.30pm
16 – 21 July 10.30am & 1.30pm
$22 adults; $14 children; SPU $19 and families (4) $60
BASS outlets, Bass Dial n’ Charge 131 246 and online www.bass.net.au