So often when adults accompany their kids to “children’s entertainment” there’s that sinking feeling in the stomach that you’re going to have to sit there and pretend to enjoy yourself for the sake of your small person. Not so with There Was An Old Lady. Part of The Brisbane Festival this absurd little gem is a delight from start to finish.

Directed by Hayden Spencer, this wonderful new show is inspired by the gruesome nursery rhyme There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and showcases the talents of cabaret diva Carita Farrer and accompanist John Rogers. Running at about forty minutes it cleverly weaves the well known rhyme with musical flights of fancy and comic asides.

I hadn’t heard of Carita Farrer before seeing the show but now I don’t mind admitting that I’d go and see her sing a grocery list. Farrer’s range, both as a comedienne and a chanteuse, is incredibly diverse and she covers everything from pop to over-the-top opera. All the musical numbers work beautifully, particularly the spicy rendition of The Owl and The Pussycat. It’s obvious that she understands her audience well and both the adults and the kids laughed along with her. John Rogers provides the perfect foil to her quirkiness and his po-faced tall-guy-at-a small-piano routine had everyone in stitches.

Hayden Spencer’s direction keeps the action moving along at a cracking pace, never allowing for a dull moment. My only criticism would be that five minutes could have been shaved off the end of the show, by which time the natives were getting a little restless.

The production design by Jonathan Oxlade is, as expected from this talented local designer, wonderfully inventive. The Old Lady of the nursery rhyme looms over the stage in her flowered apron, mouth gaping, waiting to gobble up the menagerie of poor, doomed animals at her feet. She cuts a deliciously ribald figure and had me laughing even before the performers walked on stage.

The set up of the audience area of Studio One was also well considered. Adults could enjoy the show from the back of theatre sans children while the kiddies had a brightly coloured, cushioned area all to themselves up the front.

At the end of There Was An Old Lady my girlfriend asked her seven year old whether he enjoyed the show. He considered for a moment before responding that he now intended to take up the electric guitar…I’d say that means yes!

Mango House of Arts and QPAC present
There Was An Old Lady...
A Kids Kabaret

Venue: Playhouse Studio One, QPAC
Date: 1 Oct 2008
Time: 11.00am
Further info:

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