Created by Katherine Fyffe, Sam Haren, and Jonathon Oxlade. Directed by Sam Haren. A Windmill Theatre Company production, presented by Carousel Theatre for Young People. At the Waterfront Theatre on Saturday, February 15. Continues until February 23
How do you adjust to changes to your schedule and environment? How do you deal with strangers who are different from you? These are the questions raised in BEEP, a fun, visually pleasing children’s play from Australia’s Windmill Theatre.
The play is set in a whimsical village where everyone abides by a set daily routine. At the top of the show, we’re introduced to the enthusiastic and energetic Ellen Steele and Kidaan Zelleke, two of the show’s narrator-actor-puppeteers. They give us the rundown on how things run like clockwork in this village. The narrators also point out how the regular weather patterns provide the rain and wind necessary for the village’s food supply and logistical functions.
We meet one of the villagers, Mort, a kid who enjoys eating molly melons (the town’s main food source) every morning before going outside to play with his sister, and catching little yellow creatures known as fuzzles.
When the puppet Beep, a female robot from another planet, inexplicably lands in the village, the people’s predictable lives are uprooted. Additionally, Mort and his sister have to grapple with how they will interact with Beep, given how different she appears to be.
The show is wonderfully visual, with some very well-done effects, such as when molly melons pop out of a tree, and a flashback to Beep’s journey, told through a puppetry segment featuring stars and planets. Those scenes are accompanied by great sound effects throughout the show.
Jonathon Oxlade’s imaginative set captures the mysterious and playful quality of the story. The set features a large tree that houses the living quarters of the villagers, which have windows that gleam as if they were the many eyes of a giant creature.
The puppet designs are interesting, as there doesn’t seem to be a consistent look for the villagers. Mort is a giant animal of sorts who would fit in on Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Meanwhile, his sister is a tiny figure who resembles something along the lines of a human. All of this adds to the highly creative nature of the show. The Beep puppet has a neck that can extend, and eyes that light up, which gives her a fantastical look.
The show’s cast do a strong job with their puppeteering, which involves not only moving the puppets, but also jumping between the physical and vocal mannerisms of the characters. For example, as the excitable Mort, Ezra Juanta is just as fun to watch as the puppet he operates.
And while the obvious message in the play is about accepting those who are different and learning how to overcome these differences, there’s also a strong message about sustainable energy. The premise is simple enough for children to understand, and will likely plant seeds in young audience members about the importance of our ecosystems.