Humpty Dumpty

(Arts Theatre)


Humpty Dumpty contains the usual loveable goodies, despicable baddies, magic and song and dance routines, and with plenty of in-jokes to keep the adults amused, one would think the success of a kids’ pantomime would surely be guaranteed. Unfortunately, despite a strong cast and excellent musical score, it wasn’t until second half that Humpty Dumpty managed to live up to its full potential on opening night.

The play centres on the title character, Humpty Dumpty, who by falling from his perch on the wall of the King’s courtyard brings into action a prophetic rhyme that promises the destruction of Nursery Rhyme Land should the egg ever fall. With the villain Grimm close at hand, determined to see the downfall of the kingdom, it is up to Humpty to save the people of Nursery Rhyme Land.

The first half crams a lot of story into an hour, to the detriment of the production, as the story line tended to be developed through too much talk and not enough action, testing the patience of some of the younger audience members. A lack of regular opportunity for audience/cast interaction in the first half also led to the feeling that the show was dragging on a bit. Despite the sluggishness of the story line, the leading cast were almost faultless in action. Sean Dennis as Humpty Dumpty brought an endearing naivety to the title role, making him instantly loveable for the audience. Likewise, villain Grimm, played by Matthew Bass, achieved similar instant “boo and hiss” success with the kids. Only Mother Goose (played by director Bianca Peltola) suffered from any character awkwardness she seemed a little uncomfortable in her role as the magical, maternally-minded godmother.

By the second half however, any first-half awkwardness had disappeared and the level of action picked up almost immediately with an uplifting and energetic opening song-and-dance number. It was in this half that the show really came into its own, packed full of audience interaction, fun, jokes, excitement and liveliness. The faster continuous flow of action offered no opportunity for boredom and the energy (and volume) level of the kids’ responses increased accordingly. The cast really seemed to find their feet in the second half (most notably Bianca Peltola as Mother Goose) with character-to-character interaction improving significantly as a result.

Two characters who played off each other particularly well in the second half were Tommy Tittlemouse (Gavin Ingham) and Jack Spratt (James Cook), whose cheesy boyish macho-ness amused the younger half of the audience no end. Also in the second half, one of the best comic moments in the play parodied a Spanish Habanera-esque duet and dance between the hero Humpty (Sean Dennis) and widow Dame Dobb (John Da Conceicao). Da Conceicao proved a valuable addition to the cast, playing up his campy cross-dressing role with plenty of cheesy puns, gags and pop culture references, to keep the adult contingent amused.

In general, the standard of individual talent in the cast is high, with many displaying talented singing voices as well as excellent acting abilities. Consistently solid throughout the play were James Cook as Jack Spratt, and Taneysha Toft, as Mary Quite Contrary, their impressive vocal talents well supported by the self-possessed confidence of Gavin Ingham in his comic turn as Tommy Tittlemouse.

Apart from a few opening-night slip ups and awkward moments Humpty Dumpty is still an entertaining production. The faults in the first half were more a sign of lack of performance practice than inferior preparation or skill and will no doubt improve with each show. With that in mind, a talented cast, appealing characters and plenty of cheesy jokes for the adults, Humpty Dumpty is a show worth seeing and, with its heart in all the right places, it’s sure to be a hit with the kids.

— Jasmine Green
(Performance seen: Fri 1st June 2001)