Esplanade Presents | PLAYtime! Koko the Great
11 to 27 August 2017
Esplanade Theatre Studio
Tickets cost $20, but if you join the Pip’s Club (free membership), you can purchase tickets for $18!
*** There are also sensory-friendly performances for children on the autism spectrum or with special needs.
Koko is reminded by his mother not to venture beyond the river before she leaves for the market. Once he is alone, he imagines himself as Koko the Great and embarks on an adventure in the kampong and beyond. No prizes for guessing if he crosses the river! The story takes place in a kampong that comes to life with colours, friendly animal puppets, sing-alongs, dance-alongs, surprises and more.
Inspired by Singaporean artist Liu Kang’s oil painting, Life by the River
Adapted from the children’s book Koko the Great, written by Natalie Hennedige and illustrated by Twisstii.
Andrew Mark Ong
Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai
We were invited by Today Got Class and Esplanade Pip’s Club to the preview of Koko the Great, a theatre production held in conjunction with the Children’s Biennale organised by the National Gallery. It was Elise’s first time watching a theatrical production. I wondered if it would be too abstract for her to understand but as we sat on the floor, she kept her gaze onto the set while I pointed out the items she knew (dog, duck, balls, tree, cloud, boat).
The 40-minute play was full of movement and sound. Patchwork props and puppets, singing and music brought the scenes to life. Koko dreams big; he imagines a small flower, tiny fish and an infant to be gigantic and enormous, to which the villagers mock. The audience is taught the movements to the song which they can follow along. Elise was a bit too young to catch all the moves.
Before Koko embarks on his adventure, we’re shown how a typical morning in the kampong is like, with egg-laying hens, dogs and ducks taking baths and Koko the kampong boy, bored of the same old village routine. As soon as his mother goes out, off he goes!
Probably knowing that children lose focus easily, there is a segment where the audience is invited to help Yellow Duck, Purple Dog and Koko sort out foam fish with patterns from the nets into baskets. It took a bit of prodding for Elise to go up and sort the fishes, but the rest of the children did so with ease. It seems that now she is a bit older, she’s developed some kind of wariness against strangers.
In this part of the play, Koko meets a menacing tree – the Green Giant, who warns him that he would not be able to go back home.
The show ends with Koko’s mother returning and rewarding him with a giant popsicle. The story line is simple enough for children to follow without needing explanation from the adults.
Watching the production from the floor, I couldn’t help but notice beads of perspiration forming on the actors’ faces. It must have been warm under the spotlight, but they put in their best efforts despite the heat. Local theatre is much underappreciated and I’m glad Elise was given the chance to watch art in a form she has not seen before. Children benefit from exposure to theatre arts as it stimulates their imagination – “that looks like a baby, why is it so large? Why doesn’t it have a face? Why is that man wearing a duck hat and acting like a duck?” which in turn makes them question and look for answers, much better than rote-learning and memorisation.
I don’t usually pay much attention to theatre and art. At the museums, I prefer the interactive exhibits over abstract paintings. Hence, this theatre play was something new for the both of us.
After the play ended, we grabbed some lunch and popped by Pip’s Playbox, a relatively quiet space for children to play safely (with free admission!). There are train tracks with trains, magnetic wooden building blocks, a two-storey house and nooks and crannies to chill with a book. There’s also a corner for arts and craft. The place is sanitised daily between 2 to 3pm. One thing I like about this place is that the toys stocked are open-ended and children can build whatever they want according to their creativity. No electronic toys or screens but lots of hidey holes and cabinets which open up to reveal colourful murals.
Over here, children have to take responsibility for keeping the toys back in their proper receptacles before leaving.
The place opens till 6pm, but we left earlier to avoid the peak hour train rush. We’re making the most of the remaining time we have with Elise as the only kid, so despite my huge bump, I’m determined to bring her out as much as possible until didi comes in and steals the show.