‘I want to be a day bird like Jonathan or April’, sulks Plop, the baby barn owl.
Such is the premise for ‘The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark’, a new children’s theatre production at PJ Live Arts. Performed by Blunderbus Theatre Company and presented by Gardner & Wife, the performance is based upon Jill Tomlinson’s classic children’s book of the same title. Those familiar with the book need no introduction to Plop, the lovable protagonist. Named after an incident where he fell off a branch with a ‘plop’, the nocturnal bird embarks on a series of adventures to overcome his ironic fear of nighttime.
Actors James Ward, Sam Hoye and Emily Sly steal the hearts of the young audience even prior to the show. Winding their way through the theatre, interacting with and high fiving children, the trio are so animated that it’s impossible to imagine them ever displaying deadpan expressions.
Besides breaking out into song and dropping the inevitable fart joke (which coaxes even the shyest child to giggle), the actors encourage audience participation, thus keeping the performance dynamic. The young spectators are more than pleased to cooperate by shining imaginary ‘flashlights’, waving ‘sparklers’ and stomping their feet. The thundering of 200 little pairs of feet is not something one easily forgets.
Grownups are not left out of the fun and games; a bewildered adult is pulled onto stage at one point and made to impersonate a rocket. Needless to say, the kids go wild.
On the day of this review, PJ Live Arts, which comfortably seats 200 audience members, is chiefly comprised of international school students between the ages of 3-15 years. The rest of the audience falls into three categories: parents, guardians and teachers. Regardless of age, everyone is warmed by the performance despite the theatre's extreme air-conditioning.
It's a darn shame that children’s theatre is not more commonplace throughout the country, which is all the more reason to catch ‘The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark’ at PenangPac and PJ Live Arts through March 20th.