Theatre – The Diary of a Wombat

Venue: Monkey Baa Theatre, Darling Quarter
Written By: Based on a book by Jackie French & Bruce Whatly
Directed By: Eva di Cesare

While The Diary of a Wombat is about looking at things from a different point of view, mercifully the children watching Monkey Baa’s very funny and imaginative production didn’t seem to notice.

The young audience is entirely on the wombat’s side.

The play, based on the well-loved Jackie French, Bruce Whatly picture book, follows a week in the life of this charismatic wombat. We are introduced to the furry diarist on a grassy mound, and at a distance, as he switches on a neon sign telling us it is Monday. It seems that Mothball’s life is without incident. He eats, scratches, scratches more vigorously, eats and when a larger version returns to his burrow, he sleeps, endearingly rolls on his back with paws in the air, scratches and sleeps. But Wednesday is a game-changer for he discovers both carrots and the two innocent people destined to become his humans.

His antics in pursuit of carrots are the stuff of legend. He gnaws through a door (we see his angry eye from the other side), and when the door is mended and impenetrable, there he sits on his stolid haunches, a picture of outraged indignation. Our hero is not deterred and bangs on a metal dustbin with its lid until his demands are met. He has the impudence to sneak into the human’s car and eat carrots out of her shopping bag! Great is his wrath when tiring of carrots he cannot make those silly humans understand he needs oats.

The puppeteers make Mothball’s every movement engaging and expressive. His determined waddle, his weary but virtuous brow as finally he falls asleep after another day wreaking destruction on his humans’ flowerbed or veggie patch, and, above all, his air of unflappable single-mindedness are conveyed with impressive skill. When Mothball discovers that human garden furniture makes an ideal scratching post, all efforts to oppose him are comically futile. In desperation his human opponent raises the table over his head only to realise that Mothball, wearing an expression of unutterable bliss, finds a human leg an equally suitable site.

Performers Kailah Cabanas, Michael Cullen, Samantha Hickey, a delightful cellist, Mary Rapp, and set and costume designer Imogen Ross create a special and magical world for the 3+, whose running commentary on the show is rich entertainment in itself. In case adults didn’t understand, the use of netting represents the soil dug up by Mothball and flung over the hapless humans as he makes a lovely hole for himself in their flowerbed, a chorus of children helpfully elaborate. They know and love the story.

If you would like to get a close look at Mothball, a fabulous puppet creation (Bryony Anderson), then go to “What’s On” at the wonderful Monkey Baa Theatre Company’s website.

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