Monday 8 April 2019

Super Amazing Giant Girl - Circus Review

What: Super Amazing Giant Girl
When: 6 - 21 April 219
Where: Lower Hall, Melbourne Town Hall
Originally created by: Anna Lumb and Gabi Barton
Adapted and performed by: Anna Lumb and Jez Davies
Jez Davies and Anna Lumb
First a disclaimer. Super Amazing Giant Girl is a show for kids aged 4 -10 so I am not really the right demographic. A fun anthology of circus tricks loosely connected by a story about a girl who grows to 50 feet high and has trouble fitting in, it is playing the Comedy Festival throughout the school holidays.

Lumb originally created this show in 2016 with Barton and since then it has gone on to tour successfully around Australia at all sorts of festivals and venues. The show currently being performed is an adaptation of the original with Davies taking over from Barton as Normal Person (not to scale).

Davies is himself an accomplished circus artist but with a different range of skills so inevitably the show has had to change. Where Barton is a dancer and hand balancer, Davies is a juggler. Both are great comedians and Davies has a lot of experience in children's theatre so on paper there is no deficit, just change.

Lumb is the core performer and in this tale of a girl too big for the world she gets to show off her amazing hula hoop skills, some contortion and roller skate dancing of the most amazing kind. As well as being super cute and super friendly (and super giant), Lumb shows us that pretty girls can be as gross as boys including fart jokes and showing us all a mouthful of half eaten banana.

Whilst I maintain my disclaimer about not being the target audience, I will say I was in a room surrounded by little ones who were and I paid them great attention. Thus, I have to say this iteration of the show did not really resonate with them and I found them to be somewhat confused for most of the show.

Some of the problems are dramaturgical and some can be laid squarely at the feet of the festival. Let's get the festival whipping out of the way first, shall I? To begin, Lumb's microphone was nowhere near loud enough to capture and hold a room full of younguns. Secondly (and most heinously!) Lumb teched the show on a wooden floor, but turned up to perform on a carpeted floor.

Why does this matter do you ask? Have you ever tried roller skating on carpet? Also, Lumb does the very tricky act of walking across bottles at one point. Anyone who has ever done this kind of balance work can tell you the floor needs to be solid and stable. That supposedly insignificant layer of carpet makes the floor unstable and the balancing act impossible. Eventually Lumb did give up after falling off a number of times, but the risk of injury is incredibly high. Sadly, even though the bottles can go, the rollerskating is an important part of the act and Lumb has been hamstrung by this carpet. The show is still good but it has lost some important wow factor.

Now onto the dramaturgy. One of the roles Davies plays is narrator and the other is props manipulator before coming out as Normal Person (not to scale). Unfortunately he starts off making announcements off stage so they are just a voice over. From the very beginning the kids looked confused. I think this kind of disembodied talking requires a far higher level of cognitive function then children have in this age range. Especially if you are giving instructions.

Add to that, until Davies comes out in character, all of his work is hidden behind the set - city towers painted on cardboard boxes. In my opinion he should have come out as narrator and playmate right from the beginning so the children could relate to him, kind of like the way it's done in Play School. Davies has a wonderfully comic Sean Hayes air and a mobile clowning face and this would mean he could have the kids eating out of his hands right from the very first moment.

I also think the show needs a stronger story. Kids love stories and whilst adults are too cool for exposition, this is what children are used to. Even as an adult I really didn't follow what was going on.

There were moments of great fun for the kids. Participating in the hail storm was an outrageous lark and they became very excited when the hazard tape was being set up. Everybody oohed and aahed at Lumb's big finale hula hoop routine of course! Davies does a fun juggling routine and is hilarious as the TV reporter telling us about the catastrophe taking place in the city.

The show has only just opened, and I suspect Lumb and Davies will do a bit more adapting now that they know the situation with the stage so I do think Super Amazing Giant Girl will be a great show to put in the school holidays activity planner now that the growing pains have been faced.

2.5 Stars

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