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BEEP: Incoming

by | Feb 15, 2020 | Review | 0 comments

Carousel Theatre is presenting Windmill Theatre's production of BEEP at the Waterfront Theatre.

Kailea-Nadine Williams and Ezra Juanta in BEEP. There are some changes in the touring cast. (Photo by Sia Duff)

There’s nothing wrong with Beep.

Designed by Australia’s Windmill Theatre for kids who are two to seven years old, it’s a simple story — told with puppets — about an outsider who is welcomed into village life.

A furry little guy named Mort, who looks a lot like a teddy bear, lives in the village with his younger sister Pop. Pleasantly, everything happens the same way every day until a robot named Beep crash lands. At first, the villagers decide to be afraid because they can’t think of what else to do. But then brave Mort befriends Beep. When Pop gets into trouble by climbing too high in a tree, Beep uses up all of her energy to fly up and save her. Everybody in the audience has to flap like birds to activate a windmill, which recharges Beep’s batteries. The end. That takes about 40 minutes.

There are obvious lessons about befriending strangers, appreciating difference, and … accessing alternative sources of energy. Why not?

The kids around me liked it. Charmingly, they laughed their little heads off — when Mort was trying unsuccessfully to catch fuzzles, for instance. (Fuzzles are tiny creatures that look like hairy tennis balls). When it ended, the sweet boy sitting behind me declared BEEP “Good!”

I was less enthralled. It’s worth pointing out that I’m 60 years past the top age range of BEEP’s target audience, but I have seen, performed, and written a lot of kids’ theatre.

To me, BEEP feels like Teletubbies: calculated, deliberately educational, and the opposite of mysterious. Like that of Teletubbies, the artistic vocabulary of BEEP is heavy on repetition and sound effects that sound like squeaky toys. Visually, it’s all about bright colours and large, simple shapes. Some of the effects are cool: I like the way the melon berries grow in the shaggy foliage of the trees and pop off when the wind blows them down, for instance. Still, BEEP’s conception feels more based in research than in the surprises of intuition and spontaneous fun.

BEEP is okay. It’s not evil. But it’s not transcendent.

The audience, on the other hand, is. Kids’ crowds are the best — and the best dressed. I really want a raincoat with a dinosaur print on it. And I wouldn’t mind a pair of rainbow leggings either.

BEEP Created by Sam Haren, Jonathon Oxlade, and Katherine Fyffe . A Windmill Theatre production presented by Carousel Theatre. At the Waterfront Theatre on Saturday, February 15. Continues until February 23. Tickets.


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