Theatre review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Selwyn College Theatre

By Dionne Christian

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Along with the gentle laughs, there are many wondrous moments and Jane Hakaraia's superb lighting design adds to this.
Along with the gentle laughs, there are many wondrous moments and Jane Hakaraia's superb lighting design adds to this.

What: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Where & when: Selwyn College Theatre; until April 28

Miss six and Miss five sit cross-legged in their seats, elbows on knees, chins in their hands, leaning forward often deferring to one another about what's going on in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

For the most part, they are enchanted by the genteel production adapted by playwright Mike Hudson from Mark Twain's 1876 novel and directed by Margaret-Mary Hollins.

Tellingly, my young "assistants" note the number of people on stage (around 22 aged 9 - 29 enthusiastically led by Tim Earl as Tom Sawyer), saying they don't often see shows with this many.

They laugh at the right moments and they're suitably scared when the lights dim and Injun Joe, meancingly played by Jackson Bliss-McCauley, stalks across the stage and commits his crimes.

Hollins doesn't patronise her young audience by sanitising these pivotal scenes, so parents may want to consider how easily frightened their children are.

Along with the gentle laughs, there are many wondrous moments - the way fabric transforms into the Mississippi River is beautiful - and Jane Hakaraia's superb lighting design adds to this. But, while The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is engaging and lovely to look at, it's somewhat restrained. I would have liked more pace early on - before the murder - and greater emphasis on the danger Tom and Becky Thatcher (Ellen Ranum) face when lost in the caves. In short, just a bit more wild.

What: Pigs on the Run
Where & when: Mangere Arts Centre - Nga Tohu o Uenuku; until April 30.

Restraint isn't a word that could be applied to Pigs on the Run at the Mangere Arts Centre. This show, based on The Three Little Pigs and co-directed by Alison Quigan and Troy Tu'ua, is a riot with a cast of 21, a live band, which includes six-year-old drummer George Chu Ling, and attitude to burn.

The entire cast, especially Lady Wolf Joy Vaele, shine (and sparkle) and keep the laughs coming without pause. Whereas Miss six watched Tom Sawyer, here she's up on her feet, screaming at the wolves and the little pigs and dancing during every frequent soaring song and dance number.

This is family theatre for contemporary and urban kids who'll laugh at references to social media, including dating app Tinder, CFYS, reality TV shows, know about Saturday netball and appreciate a climatic rap battle between feisty pigs and sassy wolves. Even the straw house gets a modern make-over; it's "built" from left-over straws from fast-food outlets. When the audience files out, it's to the tune of Purple Rain by the late, great Prince. There's an audible wistful sigh from the adults.

Auckland Theatre Company, which produced The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, has previously worked with the Mangere Arts Centre to produce its outrageous children's shows. It's good to see our largest theatre outfit catering for kids and recognising what works in Mangere might not in Kohimaramara.

- NZ Herald

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