Eric Carle is a well-loved children’s author and arguably his most famous picture book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show includes not only our famous friend the caterpillar; brought to the stage are four of Carle’s books – The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, Mr Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly, and, of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
I’ll just state at the outset – I’m not much of a theatre guy. In fact, I’ve only been once; to one of those shows where they pair a big-name star with some popular music in an attempt to convert the great unwashed. I guess I’m just more naturally MCG than MTC….
Yet here I am, deep within the culture-soaked depths of Arts Centre Melbourne, waiting to see the stage version of Eric Carle’s classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I’m surrounded by impatient toddlers and rambunctious school-kids in what forms quite a juxtaposition from the image I have of more regular pinot-sipping, pearl-clad theatre-goers.
Thankfully, once seated, it doesn’t take long to shake off the feeling of being an imposter.
Sitting in the theatre, watching Carle’s work come to life via 75 beautifully constructed puppets – and four very clever actor-puppeteers – you are enveloped by the sheer joy of it all.
The puppets, set and dialogue remain painstakingly true to Carle’s books – no mean feat given the complexities of some of his creations.
The first and last stanzas prove most popular with this packed house, thanks to their greater level of audience participation via repetitious call-and-response.
At 50 minutes, it’s a little bit of a test for the younger kids, and on more than one occasion the actors ply their trade against the backdrop of crying infants. El Guapo, 4, is mesmerised for about the first 40 minutes, but to be honest fades a little towards the end.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is a beautiful production and has broad appeal for young children. It’s playing for a short season only at Arts Centre Melbourne from Wednesday 28 November to Sunday 2 December 2018.
Unfortunately, tickets for this run are apparently as rare as hen’s teeth, so you’ll need a bit of luck on your side – the Arts Centre recommends checking in right up to the day you want to go.
However, if you miss out, the Arts Centre has heaps of family-oriented activities coming up through December and January, so keep an eye on the website – it’s a great way for kids to become engaged with the theatre, and perhaps grow into adults who feel at home in its surrounds.
Click here for my tips for going to the theatre with kids
- If your kids are likely to be scared by the puppets then don’t sit near the front. It’s grandstand seating so you’ll get a view from any seat.
- There can be few performance spaces easier to get to than Arts Centre Melbourne – a short stroll from Flinders St Station, its own tram stop, and a big carpark that adjoins the Playhouse.
- There’s plenty of room to stash prams.
- This weekend includes special “relaxed” and Auslan performances.
- There is a small café in the Playhouse foyer, but we took the pleb’s way out and got a bite at the Southgate food caught beforehand.
- Make a day of it and head to either the Botanic Gardens or the ever-popular Artplay playground at Birrarung Marr afterwards.