Nom Nom Gnomes: Nope

Carousel Theatre recommends this 30-minute audio play for kids who are three years old and up, but I can’t imagine any kid I know sitting still for it. I could barely manage.

In Nom Nom Gnomes, Momoka, her nine-year-old son Taku, and his little sister Kyoko prepare a series of Japanese dishes and sometimes sing songs about them. (They’ve been inspired by a gift from the kids’ grandmother in Japan.) But, as the family trio churns out chawanmushi, tamagoyaki, and other treats, writers Manami Hara and Kanon Hewitt give us precious little reason to pay attention.

There’s no overarching narrative and only one story that’s attached to a particular bit of food prep. Very near the end, as the family prepares mochi, Momoka tells her kids an old tale about cold statues and the kindness of an old man. For once, Nom Nom Gnomes allows us the pleasure of wondering what will happen next and gives us the satisfaction of a thematic pay-off. For most of the script, though, the mom and kids simply decide what they’re going to make, give us a few details, and prepare the food — without barriers or mishaps — in record time. They’re doing this in an audio format and there’s virtually no sensual or theatrical pay-off.

This is in stark contrast to Holiday Baking Time, which playwright Hara acted in a couple of years ago at Presentation House. Another kids’ show about food, Holiday Baking Time is a crazy amount of fun — because it understands its medium. A pair of clown bakers bake little buns during the show, so we get to watch the prep in real time, smell the buns when they’re in the oven, and eat them afterwards. In the meantime, there’s a kitchen-load of audience participation: we blow wind into the sails of a little loaf who goes on a voyage, for instance. Yes to all of that!

Nom Nom Gnomes offers us no audio equivalent. The songs are okay, but not compelling. As audience members, we’re expected to do nothing but listen. The characters and their relationships are cliché: Momoka is always perfect; Taku bosses Kyoko around a bit, but he’s basically a good kid. There’s an underlying theme of treating one another kindly, but there’s not enough story to tether that idea to so it doesn’t land.

The one saving grace is that the performers — Jennifer Tong (Momoka), Brent Hirose (Taku), and especially June Fukumura (Kyoko) — bring charm. And, of course, it’s good to hear a piece that’s not all about European heritage.

Still, for me, taking in Nom Nom Gnomes made for a long half hour. I loved listening to narrative kids’ records when I was a little guy. But those records told stories and created compelling audio worlds. Nom Nom Gnomes doesn’t do enough of either.

NOM NOM GNOMES Created by Manami Hara and Kanon Hewitt. Produced by Carousel Theatre for Young People. Audio play available till January 3, 2021. Tickets.


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About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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