Kapow! [FringeTIX]
Asking for Trouble @ Umbrella Revolution
11:30am, Sat 18 Feb 2012
In the early years of The Garden, these pre-Fringe matinée performances would often be attended only by myself and a handful of other Gardeners. These days, however, parents seem to be right on top of things; there’s a pretty decent crowd gathered for this morning performance, which thankfully avoids the later heat of the day.
As we wander into the surprisingly not stifling Umbrella Revolution, we see Scout – young, caped, with wide eyes underneath her superhero goggles. She sits on her bunk beds, playing with her teddy: the bear coyly waves at the children as they enter, or performs simple tricks around the frame of the beds. Scout introduces herself with a flourish at the top of the show; her house is her world, with the bunk beds and Hills Hoist and kitchen table the defining objects. And then there’s The Fence – imposing, mysterious. The Edge of her World.
But Scout’s not alone: her best friend (and dog) Natalie bounds around with endless enthusiasm, and her (imaginary) friend Terry ditches his newspaper deliveries to come play with her… during an energetic play session, Scout’s teddy goes sailing over The Fence… and the mission to retrieve the bear is initiated. We see the three heroes training (to a peppy soundtrack), installing a laser-defence system, and delivering a heap of vibrant, active, and engaging tumbles and balances. There’s creative use of the kitchen table and bunks, and some of the balance pieces are really quite clever… and, just as the kids are starting to vague out, there’s a massive dodgeball fight that gets their attention back. It really is a brilliantly paced show, and it even has a very clear and friendly disclaimer at the end (to encourage the kids to not go kill themselves at home repeating some of the tricks).
Even as a jaded, middle-aged adult, I found Kapow! to be completely charming. Christy Flaws’ wide-eyed and expressive Scout is absolutely perfect, managing her acrobatics almost effortlessly, and her body language just draws the audience in… it’s an incredibly accomplished performance. Ailsa Wilds’ Natalie is a joyous puppy, full of zest and doggy mannerisms, even whilst sidetracking into verbose monologues about the evolution of the canine species. Luke O’Connor provides the slapstick with Terry, including a well-paced repetition of head-smacking “accidents” that provide rigour to the middle third of the show.
But, even beyond the great performances, the really great thing about Kapow! is the maturity that’s hidden within the script. Sure, the superficial view of the performance sees it encouraging a sense of exploration, a sense of play, but there’s also an undercurrent that there’s no such thing as pure Good Guys and Bad Guys – just a continuum between Good and Bad. Good Guys can be Bad, Terry demonstrates. And I reckon that’s a wonderful little seed to plant in a youngster’s mind; it’s almost a germ of a political statement.
Oooooh, look at me. Finding something political in a children’s show!
Regardless, I loved Kapow!, and would recommend it to pretty much anyone with young kids.
Later that night, I was sitting with Matt and Nat and their youngster in The Garden, just having a bit of a chat; a woman walks up to us and says to me, “I recognise you from the show today.” Seeing the Kapow! flyers she was carrying, I tried to place her – was she on the door? The realisation came with a jolt – no, it was Ailsa, minus her doggy makeup. We had a lovely chat and – after having already raved about the show to Matt & Nat – she gave them a couple of comps, which pleased them no end. Good stuff :)