Review: White: A children's show for grownups

Main content

White: A children's show for grownups The show is White and colours are banished, but one of its lead actors will be hitting the stage tonight red-faced. 2012-03-08T20:38:23+00:00 2012-03-08T20:38:23+00:00 > Dominion Post White

Tom Hunt - Dominion Post

The show is White and colours are banished, but one of its lead actors will be hitting the stage tonight red-faced.

A pleasure trip to Picton this week for Ian Cameron and Tim Licata ended with Cameron attacked by New Zealand's notorious sun.

That sunburn is bound to glow at their Capital E children's show, White, in which the entire set and outfits are white.

White, aimed at 2 to 5-year-olds, is set in a world without colour, in which friends Wrinkle (Cameron) and Cotton (Licata) live. But with the arrival of a brightly coloured egg, their world begins to change as the rainbow invades their lives.

In short, it is a little more abstract than The Wiggles.

Licata, who has a young child himself, is not critical of The Wiggles: "They fill up the children's senses."

But White takes a different tact by inviting children to engage in their peculiar world, he says.

"Surprisingly, [parents] often say 'I think I enjoyed that more than my children'. The nature of it is it brings out the children in the adult."

Parents are often surprised to find their children - some as young as 15 months - sit riveted through the entire 45 minute show, he says.

Cameron, who co-created White, says the trick is to think about what children can understand, and present it in the right mix of repetition, rhythm, and repeated images.

"Just when something needs to happen it does."

The show has toured the world, recently stopping in at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, London, and Broadway in New York.

Licata says that in general "children are children" and react similarly everywhere they go - but there are differences.

"In New York they were more vocal. At the end they ask more questions."

Even within countries there are variations - shy in Sydney and nearby arts hub Casula and bubbly in Melbourne, for example.

Wellington - where they have never toured before - remains unknown.

What is known is children will never fake a response to confirm to theatrical norms, Cameron says.

"Children are more honest. It keeps it alive because you never know what will happen.

"They haven't yet learned, supposedly, how you are meant to react to theatre."

Lyn Gardner, a reviewer from British newspaper The Guardian, an adult, responded like this: "This delightful show from Catherine Wheels is a really grown-up piece of theatre with strong absurdist overtones. There is more than a touch of [Waiting for] Godot's tramps in Cotton and Wrinkle."

She went on to say the show was "beautifully acted" and "as cleverly executed as a conjuring trick".

New York Times reviewer Laurel Graeber says it is more than just a "not-so-subtle" tolerance fable, but gave it a mixed review.

"White doesn't insist on teaching preschoolers. But it also isn't very developed. Any parent knows that a 2-year-olds' favourite word is why. Why do these funny fellows live this way, and why don't they talk much? Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street do, though their audience is just as young."

The show comes from Scotland's Catherine Wheels - the same group who brought Lifeboat to the festival in 2008.

Dominion Post reviewer Laurie Atkinson - who still reviews for this paper - gave the show a rave review.

"It is an extraordinary story and it is told simply and energetically, as the details of life in wartime England and the [main characters'] families are neatly and amusingly presented in flashback . . . This story, forcibly and cleverly told, of friendship and endurance is also a stimulating and imaginative introduction to the theatre for today's young, breast- fed on TV."

Licata, who was not on the Lifeboat tour in 2008, says elements of magic in the show mean the technical side of the award- winning set, and how the colours arrive, remain largely under wraps.

At least we know where Cameron got his red nose from - the magical power of the sun.


White, Capital E, today, March 9 and 11 at 10.30am and 1.30pm; March 8 and 10, 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

Related Event