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Thursday, March 6, 2014

There is a Time for Everything - A Review of I Theatre's "The Ant and the Grasshopper"


A review of the I Theatre production, “The Ant and the Grasshopper” written for Little Day Out, a Singapore-based website that provides information and updates on the best of Singapore for families with young children.
Snapshot with the cast of The Ant and the Grasshopper
“There is a time for everything.” So sing the insects during the final song of the play. There is a time for working hard and gathering food; but there is also a time for enjoying music and the arts. Indeed this final refrain from I Theatre’s The Ant and the Grasshopper seems to capture the quintessential tension between what is “work” and what is “life”, and how to negotiate a difficult balance between the two.

Brian Seward, in his re-creation of the famous Aesop Fable of the same name, has this time outdone himself. Seward has crafted a magical masterpiece around a seemingly simple tale warning children about the ills of not working hard and taken this to a deeper level, drawing out themes not only about work-leisure balance, but also about the importance of treasuring friendships and managing change. The production conveys that while seasons may come and go, there are things that stand the test of time and transcend whatever changes that may occur.

The strongest draw of the production were its larger-than-life characters. Take for instance the busy ant Ms Antoinette and her obsessive need for work and organisation. This is in stark contrast to the ukulele-strumming Criminy-Grasshopper and his “come-what-may” approach towards life. Throw in the buzzing busybodies, Bee One and Bee Two, and the change-adverse Very Hungry Caterpillar Nessa and the stage is more than teeming with a hive of activity. There is even the ostentatious fashionista of a ladybird, Lady Coco, whose dazzling appearance more than makes up for her lack of substance.

In terms of music, the partnership between Seward and composer Julian Wong is clearly a plus point of the production. The light-hearted yet soulful songs helped the audience become better acquainted with the happy-go-lucky disposition of the grasshopper. Conversely, the more serious and upbeat pieces conveyed the hardworking mindset of the ant.

I Theatre’s production of The Ant and the Grasshopper is a delightful tale that will charm children as young as three (our son Z was in rapt attention throughout the play) and is even enjoyable for the adults accompanying the children (both of us parents enjoyed the intricate commentaries about life inserted at appropriate intervals). The production also engages children thoroughly (such as drawing on audience participation to teach the caterpillar how to exercise). Indeed, such interactive elements help to draw in the younger audiences, providing an enjoyable experience for the younger children to develop a love for the theatre.

The Art and the Grasshopper is running from now to 15 March.

Photos of the play can be found in the Little Day Out article here.

These are some follow up activities that can be carried out with your children after watching the performance.

Insects Worksheet Printables & Puzzles by Super Teacher Worksheets
Learning about Ants by Education World
Unit Study on the Very Hungry Caterpillar by the Official Eric Carle Website
Unit Study on Seasons - Youtube Video: Craft Activities on the Seasons

Post-Script: What follow up activity did we do with our 3-year-old? Five days after watching the play, little Z decides to re-enact the entire performance at the playground. He enthusiastically takes on the role of the Ant (with Daddy prompting him lines). Mummy acts as the Grasshopper, while our 1-year-old son E flutters his wings excitedly as the transformed Butterfly.)

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