The Undercover Angels & the Great Christmas Time MachineI watched with joy as an excited horde of primary school kids entered the Sydney Street Theatre yesterday morning to see Harvest Rain’s production of The Undercover Angels and the Great Christmas Time Machine. There’s nothing better than an innocent audience, ready to experience the magic of the theatre. For some it was no doubt the first time. This is why children’s theatre is so great to go to, because even though you may have seen the same kind of show with the same kind of jokes time and time again, they are seeing it with fresh eyes.

This show follows The Undercover Angels on an important case; to stop the evil Professor Snottlepot from preventing the first Christmas. Immediately the audience is recruited as cadets, and asked to “keep their eyes peeled” for the villains. The cast were excellent at establishing the permissible cat calls and thus engaged the kids straight away. The fact that the audience was able to express certain views about certain characters worked and it was delightful to see so many kids riled up with the injustice of the situation.

There were some great moments in the show that were defined by excellent costume choices. I would particularly like to mention Cameron Hurry’s disguise as Princess Jasmine and Josh McIntosh’s physicality during his speech to the shepherd’s, there is nothing quite like an angel in a bear costume. I would also like to mention Belinda Heit’s performance during the finale. I was pleasantly surprised at the callibre of the singing. It was a beautiful way to end the show.

I took my 7-year old nephew along to see what he thought and when asked, without a seconds delay, he proclaimed, “It was awesome!” However, I noticed that younger audience members were scared at times. So if you are planning on taking your children consider perhaps their personality and fright limit as although I have seen much scarier children’s shows, it still had the ability to upset. But if your child is old enough, or brave enough to handle the darker characters in the show, it is safe to say that they will more than likely enjoy this crazy time travel adventure!

There was, however, something about this show that was a little tiresome and underwhelming. The actors in general didn’t seem to be driven by any passion. That is, at times it was apparent that a “that’ll do” attitude prevailed. The characterization, including a number of sloppy accents, lacked commitment. Furthermore, although the constraints of a pantomime seem to work so easily on a young audience, there was no innovation about it. Everything looked and sounded right, but it felt fairly dated and boring in comparison to other children’s shows I have seen.

I think pantomimes as a form are a little insulting. The characters are obviously stereotypical, the audience is told what to think of who, and essentially the show relies on the planned responses to make it exciting. It felt like this production wasn’t one driven by a passion for children’s theatre. A clear example of this was the apparent ineffectiveness of the “Time Out” constraint. When this constraint didn’t work, the actors continued and thus the audience lost punchlines and dialogue that affected not only the flow but the enjoyment of the show. There were a few things like this that made it messy.

However, it was clearly a production dedicated to telling kids about the true meaning of Christmas, and I applaud Harvest Rain for reminding people of the true reasons we celebrate. And when it comes to children’s theatre the reviewers who matter most are the kids themselves and without a doubt I acknowledge the fact that the kids loved it.

Harvest Rain Theatre Company presents
The Undercover Angels & the Great Christmas Time Machine

Venue: Sydney Street Theatre | 166 Sydney St, New Farm, Brisbane
Dates: 28 November - 15 December 2007
Times: Tues - Fri @ 11am / Sat @ 11am & 2pm
Tickets: $15
Bookings: (07) 3358 5387 or

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