Object Theatre, despite its ancient beginnings in rites and rituals, is about as contemporary as you can get. In Hare Brain we see everyday objects transform into characters before our eyes: a plastic shopping bag becomes a hare becomes a character. None are so capable of suspending disbelief than children, so who else to better admire a plastic bag transformed? Don’t get me wrong, the old bag-turns-into-a-hare trick rather captured my imagination too, but the youngsters around me could barely contain themselves. They really saw that rabbit. And lets’ face it, there’s nothing in this world that melts your heart and makes you smile more than a four-year-old in a fit of giggles.
Hare Brain is an updated version of the classic Aesop fable of the Hare and the Tortoise and revisits that age old dilemma - does fast and furious or slow and steady win the race? This modern version comes complete with a space-age think tank to compliment the whole gamut of everyday objects that come to life.
This is the story of Harry (Ben Russell), the uptight marketing executive (à la the Hare), and Toulouse (Michael Barlow), the Zen cleaner (à la the Tortoise), who are racing against the clock to come up with a perfect story to sell the latest must-have toy. Harry, the rather left brained Hare, depends on his glamorous soft toys, fast cars and logic. Toulouse, the Zen Tortoise, employs the right side of his brain to fire up his imagination to transform objects from his cleaner’s trolley to tell his stories.
Hare Brain’s plot is not a simple one, and yet the kids seemed to have little trouble sitting still (for the most part) and taking it all in. I asked my nine year old companion if he understood it all okay and he gave me a resounding “Yeah, I loved it!” and then proceeded to roll his eyes at me (in pity no doubt, presuming I had some troubles following the story). The sequence in the think tank, though rather inspired with some wonderful use of more conventional puppets, was rather abstract and lost the younger audience a bit. The actors’ voices became a little lost in the tank under the music. Michael Barlow and Ben Russell were wonderful though, maintaining extremely high energy levels while creating all manner of wonderful creatures from some rather hard-to-handle objects.
There’s not a whole lot for adults in this production, apart from a funky McDonald’s reference, a few plays on words (“I am the winner and you are Toulouser” says Harry at one point), and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it divinely inspired David Brent (from UKs The Office series) impersonation by Ben Russell, which was priceless. The kids positively ate up the slapstick chase scene, and even the youngest of the charges seemed to have an innate understanding of the “It’s behind you!” concept.
The wonderful thing about Hare Brain is that it clearly aims to inspire and ignite some developing imaginations. These kids will never look at a mop and bucket in the same way, and that’s a wonderful gift to give a child. Indeed, after the show, my companion picked up a piece of fibrefill he found on the floor of the theatre and started musing about all the things in it that he could see. He then floored me by summing up a rather abstract show by saying, “… things that really matter lots and lots at one point can then not matter at all.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
Venue: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre | 1 Short Street, Fremantle
Dates: September 27 – October 11
Bookings: www.sppt.asn.au or 9335 5044 ($2.00 phone booking fee applies)