“It’s the Wolf!” the children clamour. A masked actor is sneaking past the orchestra as they warm up onstage. The concert hasn’t even begun but the fun is already underway.
Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf was the concluding concert in the WA Symphony Orchestra’s Education Week program which included a birthday party for the education ensemble EChO, the world premiere of student compositions, the popular amateur Rusty Orchestra concert and a hospital concert.
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The fresh take on Peter and the Wolf was presented by Platypus Theatre (from Canada) who were a resounding success at WASO’s inaugural Education Week last year. Artistic director Peter Duschenes demonstrated the concept of musical characterisation with WASO and conductor Chris van Tuinen performing excerpts including Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee and Schumann’s Traumerei. The musical themes for Prokofiev’s ‘symphony for children’ were introduced and the story unfolded with the help of masks, puppets and mime plus a few minor plot adjustments for modern sensibilities: the wolf stuffed the duck in a sack rather than swallowing it and the huntsmen were police who ran out of ammunition allowing Peter and the help of a dozen audience volunteers to net the wolf.
Platypus Theatre kept the music central, drawing all their theatrics from the musical gestures from the bird reluctant to help Peter distract the wolf to the tug of war over the wolf’s tail. The antics were well-pitched with stock-in-trade pantomime gestures prompting shrieks of “He’s over there” from the thrilled young audience.
My three year old loved the cat because of its music (kudos to the clarinettists!) while my five year old thought it was hilarious when the wolf couldn’t spot Peter and friends hiding right behind him: “He must’ve thought the person who woke him up was invisible!”
It was fabulous to see WASO investing so wholeheartedly in the vital job of reaching a young audience. The high demand for tickets during Education Week indicates there is no shortage of parents and children keen to give the adventure of classical music a go.
This review copyright The West Australian 2016.