Family values, social issues and artful theatricality will enthrall children aged 6-12 years when an original Australian adaptation of David Walliams’ award-winning book, Mr Stink, comes to the Seymour Centre on February 27.
Recently nominated for a Sydney Theatre Award for Best Production for Children, Mr Stink will be back in Sydney as part of a six-month national tour following its successful premiere at the Sydney Opera House last year.
This story of a family falling apart that is rescued by an unlikely hero sees lonely young Chloe making friends with Mr Stink, a local tramp who “smells a bit” but is the only person who has ever been nice to her. When Mr Stink needs a place to stay, Chloe hides him in the garden shed but there’s more to Mr Stink than meets the eye.
Director Jonathan Biggins, best known for his work in the Wharf Review and Avenue Q, described it as “an old-fashioned book, written in the old style, about people living in a family”.
Biggins, winner of two AWGIE awards for writing in musical theatre – The Republic of Myopia and a new libretto co-written with Phil Scott for Orpheus in the Underworld – was delighted with the children’s reaction to the show during the Sydney premiere.
“What we found interesting last year is that kids really engaged with the plot and the story, and the journey of the characters,” he said. “They were quiet and attentive which is testament to theatricality and how a good story can be told.”
Directing adult plays allows Biggins to delve into more complexity and play to a quieter audience but directing children’s shows is particularly rewarding because it introduces children to theatre.
“If you give a young person a good experience in theatre they will come back later,” he said. “It’s giving them a reason to fall in love with theatre, using theatricality to tell the story.”
And Mr Stink, Maryam Master’s faithful 60-minute adaptation of the award-winning book, does just that captivating children with this moral family story that does not preach. “There are lots of moral lessons told in a funny, non-sanctimonious way, in a children’s way, with scatological humour and other things that engage kids,” Biggins said.
Part of its appeal is that despite cartoonish elements in the book, the story is told in a natural way.
“The more naturalistically you play it and the more you play against the cartoonish nature of the book the better it works,” Biggins said. “Like any good children’s book the storytelling is simple but it has integrity.”
Great care is also taken to entertain the adults in the audience.
“It is very much a family show. We pitch it across to the parents because parents need to be engaged too,” Biggins said. “Children have an amazing capacity for understanding that should not be underestimated. If you’re engaged with what’s going on, they’re engaged with it too.”
The six-month national tour travels to regional centres right across the country. “This Seymour Centre show is for those in Sydney who missed it last year or who want to see it again,” Biggins said.
Mr Stink plays at the Seymour Centre, Cnr City Road and Cleveland Street, Chippendale NSW on February 27 and 28 at 6pm. Tickets: $29. Groups 6+ $26 per person. Bookings via www.seymourcentre.com or phone (02) 9351 7940