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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (article first published : 2008-07-4)

The Magic Paintbrush appearing on the National Arts Festival fringe programme is the story of a boy from the rural area who finds himself in the busy city and is given a Magic Paintbrush. With this magic paintbrush, he can paint whatever he wants and it will come to life. The king of the land, in a gigantic gold costume with a puppet head, wants to steal the paintbrush and paint himself some gold. The boy is eventually captured and his paintbrush stolen to paint many gold bricks. However the Magic of the paintbrush transforms the gold into a gold dragon which chases the king away.

The show had a good idea, however it needed more activity considering it is a kids’ show. There was a bit of physical theatre, puppetry, however performances were flat often throughout the show and not dynamic enough to hold the attention of audience members aged 1 to 40, the majority being children. The songs sang served the purpose of only background music and there was very little interaction with the kids; and interaction that was present was not energized enough.

What was stunning was the main feature of the show which was the palette onto which the boy with the magic paintbrush drew the pictures that came to life.

It was a giant box with an opaque screen with puppets on the other side which reflected through the glass in multi-colours. This aspect stunned the kids and was particularly interesting. Another interesting feature that the play had was puppetry through the screen which carried the story forward and was an interesting alternate feature to tell a story.

The puppetry was a feature enjoyed by the kids, but sometimes voices were too high-pitched that it was impossible to hear certain sentences and so the story was lost at points. The story telling was presented too rushed. With children, things have to be slowed down and demonstrated clearly and as precise as possible.

The features introduced were very entertaining, however being one who teaches drama myself, to the range of ages present at the show, the energy levels were too low and the kids easily got bored. Loud, clear voices, extraneous movement, song, dance, and interaction with the kids is vital when presenting a kids show. Sometimes special devices are not needed to entertain little ones, it’s presentation and dynamism that attract kids. Tell them a boring story in an interesting way and they’ll love it. However, this was an interesting story, with interesting alternate techniques told in a flat, energy-less manner. - Shika Budhoo




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