Review: Mr Benn (Kid’s Fest 2013)

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The story of Mr Benn, of the same named TV show and books starts off he same way as it always does. Mr Benn, who purportedly hates fancy dress parties, leaves his home at No. 52 Festive Road and visits a fancy dress shop where the purple hat wearing shopkeeper eggs him on to try on an outfit. Whilst in the changing room, Mr Benn (with two Ns, thank you very much) exits via a magic door into a costume appropriate adventure, be it to fight a dragon, or to save zoo animals from being abused.

 

I only know of the show because I’ve seen the books online and thereafter gone and youtubed this very ordinary man with extraordinary adventures. Plus, I love the fact he wears a bowler hat and speaks pretty darn good english. I don’t know why I never introduced Mr Benn to Q, come to think of it.

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When I found out Kid’s Fest was bringing in this show, I was a little apprehensive to take Q seeing as he has never heard of said bowler hat wearing dude but we decided to go anyway; Kid’s fest shows have yet to disappoint. And we were so glad we did.

Like the books and cartoons, this staging started with Mr Benn (with two Ns), receiving an invitation to a fancy dress party to which he was not keen to attend, because, well, you know, he doesn’t have anything to wear. Anyway, one day, he finds himself outside a fancy dress shop where a fez-wearing shopkeeper invites him to try on a cook’s outfit and when he leaves the changing room through a magic door, he finds himself with a palace crisis.

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The show blends several Mr. Benn episodes together seamlessly as they whisked us off to meet princess Annabella who refuses to eat and thereafter to help a harassed sea monster. The show hints at many other episodes, where Mr Benn becomes a magician, an astronaut, a cowboy and the brave red knight.

The four man cast steal the show with many musical numbers, each done in a different and distinct music genre. Impeccable stage timing, well placed magic tricks throughout the show meant that the kids were as wowed (how did he do that?!) as they were entertained.

Another strong show by the Tall Stories troop! Two thumbs up!

From the Sistic Page:

As if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared…

One ordinary day, Mr Benn receives an invitation to a fancy dress party – and comes across an extraordinary shop. As if by magic, the shopkeeper appears with an array of costumes, and shows him into the dressing room.

Inside is a mysterious door that leads Mr Benn into incredible adventures, full of dragons, princesses and sea monsters… Will Mr Benn ever go back to his ordinary life?

 

 

 

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Difficult kid questions (Part 1): Why do some parents abandon their kids?

We were at a friend’s baby’s baptism (Hello Alison Png!) earlier in the day. Late, no less, cos we were waiting for Evan to wake from his nap; the fella slept on and on, so I ended up with a (truth be told, much needed) one-on-one date with my firstborn. After the party- grateful that we caught the tail end of things, I decided to swing by Animal Resort so this animal loving kid could go feed some animals.

We were just about done there when this lady who voluntarily takes care of several abandoned parrots came by and brought out said parrots for a small meet and greet. Naturally, we had to go see the parrots, one of which was blind, squawking its guts out and almost featherless. Q, of course, had to know why this bird was bald when its friend was in its full plume glory.

Q to the volunteer lady: Why does the parrot have no feathers?
Lady: Cos the parrot is sad.
Q: Why is the parrot sad?
Lady: Cos his mummy and daddy didn’t want him anymore.
Q: That’s terrible. (To the bird) I’m sorry you are sad, parrot. Here, have a carrot.
(We had a pack of carrots cos we were just feeding the not-very-hungry horse)
Lady: He’s blind, so although he can hear you, he can’t see the carrot.
Q: He cannot see? How come?
Lady: Cos he had no shades in his cage and the sunlight made him blind.
Q: He needs sunglasses.

We left shortly after and he was recounting to me in the car all the animals he saw at the farm and spent a long time talking about the parrot with no feathers. Other than telling me that he had to tell Evan and daddy about the parrot- that he saw, fed and pet it; he had more questions for me. I had an inkling as to how this was going to go down….

Q: Why the parrot’s mummy and daddy don’t want the parrot anymore?
Me: I don’t know son. Maybe they felt like they can’t take care of the parrot anymore.
Q: Did they throw him away?
Me: I suppose so.
Q: That’s not nice. (Long pause)
Me: Some mummies and daddies think they can take care of a parrot, or dog, or baby; but then they realize they cannot. So they have to give them away and hopefully someone else will take better care of them.
Q: Like in Myanmar

It took me a while to figure this link out, then it dawned on me he was talking about Grace Home Orphanage cos Aunty Amar (matron of the home) explained to him the last trip that some kids there were there because their mummies and daddies could not take care of them (or want them anymore).

Me: Yes, like in Myanmar. Grace Home. Like Noble (his friend at the home his age)
Q: We (should) buy Noble bubble tea. I am tired, I going to sleep.

Five minutes later, this little boy was fast asleep in his car seat.

These are the moments I really wonder what goes on in that little mind of his; how much he knows, how much he understands. There are moments he seems to get a lot- far more than I ever give him credit for. Then there are moments, like when he was home and talking to/at Evan- about the giant rabbit, the noisy ducks, the hungry fish and the bald parrot; it seems the depth of what he asked me about in the car never happened. Its like his brain hits a “query”, he asks-gets his answers, files them away in this little mind vault, and he’s moved on to the next curiouser thing.

Kids, they keep you on your toes don’t they?

Why world affairs should matter to our kids

My love for politics started back in 1996 when I visited Myanmar and found myself at the cusp of a student riot and political change. To cut the long story short, it made me deeply interested in politics- the art and the science of things, and I ended up double majoring in psychology and political science with special interest in political campaigns, elections and how all of that impacts world politics.

Needless to say, US elections hold particular fascination for me since the impact of the person sitting in the Oval Office holds sway for the world, world politics and world policies. Wun and I took leave in 2008 to watch America elect their first black president (I would have preferred Hillary personally) and when Q was born, our good friend and fellow Politiko Aunty Karyn made Q his very one ABC onesie: A is for Arendt… N is for Nasser…T is for Thatcher… Y is for Yoda.

When our local elections took place (GE2011), we let Q stay up with us to wait for the results, explaining to my not yet 2yo who Lee Hsien Loong was, who the men in blue were and he clapped and cheered along with us at the various speeches and all. Somedays, instead of our usual ABC 123 lessons, we teach him about the great people in the world; a modge-podge of world leaders and other notable characters that have shaped our world.

When Neil Armstrong died, we learnt about the moon, talked about the Mars Explorer, looked at photos, built mock Apollo 11z, re-created walking on the moon (not the moon walk; we walked on sponges) and pretended to be aliens.

Yes, its important our kids learn their ABCs, 123s and all the other classroom stuff… but we also think its darn important they learn about the world.

 

Review: Slava’s Snow Show

I’d be honest, I’m not a big clown fan. I think most of them look kinda freaky even if their funniness makes them easier to accept. Neither am I a big fan of snow and ice and all things ice related. I like living in the tropics, thank you very much. In any case, when we were invited to go catch Slava’s Snow Show when it came to town, I decided- heck, why not. But I’m packing me some warmer jackets and go with an open mind.

The show started of a little late and, truth be told we weren’t feeling too optimistic about the show seeing as the Sands Theatre was hardly even full. There were more than a few bits of paper snow on the floor from previous shows so Q was kinda bummed that it wasn’t real snow. It was a little warm, the background “music” of trains chugging along was starting to grate on me.

After a 15 minutes delay, the show finally took off and built momentum relatively slowly. We had to remind ourselves that this was not Cirque du Soleil even if the creator was with the troupe before. The clown work was funny enough, not particularly unique but more than competent and Q finally perked up with they hit the famous bubble show where thousands and thousands of bubbles floated about the stage. There wasn’t a clear flow of a story- not even sure if there was supposed to be a story back line but each individual segment was ok and the first half ended quite nicely with a screen of silk being pulled over the entire audience. Q was not impressed with this part seeing as the lead up to this was the clown cleaning “cob webs” and my 2m5yo decided it was dirty. Hahaha.

The latter half of the show was significantly better that the former with more fast paced action and funnier clown plots. There was a lot more (paper) snow being dunked on the audience so that was quite fun for the kids who were there. We were lucky to sit at a sweet spot near the front where we were spared most of the water being splashed around and we got to play with the snow but not be a washed by it as some members of the audience did. The back half had a slightly freaky segment (think rocking horse, morose clown knitting in the former, white shape walking across the stage) which I found utterly unnecessary but what do I know about the fine art of clowning, right?

The last two segments were the pinnacle of the show: a beautiful mime between a clown and “his lover” saying goodbye- beautifully executed and timed. That was followed by the legendary snowstorm which was absolutely spectacularly done. I’ve never been in a snowstorm and have no clue how accurate it was; but I liked that well enough.

If you ask Q, though, he’d tell you he liked the ending best; when they threw HUGE balls into the audience. He tried to take a ball back but we wren’t allowed to- bummer.

The show was pretty neat, all in all. A little pricy if you ask me, but quite fun overall.

Mushroom Magic

After what felt like a mammoth undertaking with our ABC series, I decided to take it a little easier and start exploring other less structured (read: more world life fun) stuff like Solar System, life cycles, things in our past… etc. Basically, random stuff; still educational but less formal than learning about ABCs and 123s.

We recently took Q to Bollywood Veggies for lunch with some friends and I decided that it would be fun to try growing our own edible stuff. I don’t have a green thumb at all so I had to go find other ways to make this work. I came across a nice mummy (Hello Poppletots!) with an online blogshop selling these cute and fun mushroom growing kits and I bought one to show Q how sporing plants reproduced/grew. He already kinda understands how seeds work.

The mushrooms come in a stump of sawdust with online instructions that they need a warm, darkish, humid place to thrive. You are to spray water it several times a day and let nature takes its course. Q’s job was to spray the stump several times a day and the truth is, he got kinda bored of the work cos things appeared to be moving really slowly. Then, suddenly, overnight maybe about four days in, little white stuff started to sprout and we had to ban the kid from going near the stump because he kept trying to peel them out. He actually succeeded and luckily we caught the little fella quietly ensconced in the storeroom (where the mushrooms were) doing peeling work. We lost one side of our budding mushrooms actually. That is why, if you look at the photo, there’re only mushrooms on one side.

From the little white bits on, things progressed quite rapidly. We’re talking about whole mushrooms growing from 1 cm things to what appeared to be full sized in under 48 hours. We gave it another day or so and decided it was time to harvest our first batch of homegrown oyster mushrooms which we fried with garlic and japanese rice wine. The adults in the house only ended up eating a piece or two, the kid ate the rest.

Review: Esplanade’s Play Time’s The Magic Ocean

I decided it was time to initiate Evan into the world of theatre and musicals and since I was planning to take Q to watch the well review The Magic Ocean at the Esplanade, I decided I would buy a family set of tickets and take the bub.

This was part of the Esplanade Play Time offerings.

I didn’t have high hopes for the little fella but Q was duly excited to enter a world where you could swim with the whales, make friends with crabs and dance along with the fish. Ever since he watched Finding Nemo, he’s always held a particular fondness for ocean things.

One of the things I like about this is that the audience is seated within the musical space. Meaning, the action happens all around everyone and there are many interactive portions where the audience can take part: action songs, going up to pat the faux jellyfish, shooing the bad “whale catchers away” and sticking shells and starfish (velcro toys that were lying around) onto various ocean creatures (think barnacles).

I was kinda surprised that Evan stayed awake and attentive throughout the whole show and passed out gloriously for two hours after the show (yay!). Q jabbered about the jellyfishes incessantly and tried to mimic Dory (from Finding Nemo) in speaking whale to great hilarity.

This show comes around seasonally and if it comes, you guys would definitely go watch it!

From the program website:

Come on an underwater adventure this June down below the Magic Ocean!

Swim with fish great and small, or take a walk sideways with the friendly crab and starfish! Hide in a large clam shell, or peacefully glide through the sea with turtles and ride the rolling waves up and down. Once in a while, you might have to flee from the fearsome shark!

In this theatrical experience specially designed for 2 –4 year olds, children will discover a magical world through visual stimulation, music, shadow play and interaction as the ocean comes alive before their eyes.

Come sit along the seabed among colourfuls coral and watch the wonders of the sea unfold with us in the Magic Ocean!

Cupcake foil animal menagerie

Q loves animals and he often asks to make animal menageries with random stuff we find in the house.

Since we’ve been doing a fair amount of cooking and baking we’ve dug deep into our kitchen stash and emerged with a pile of cupcake tin foils. I no longer bake with these so we decided to repurpose them to make “stuff with”.

So, we pulled out our paint supplies and set out to make some animals. We found a discarded egg tray and used bits of that to make animal parts (noses, beaks, heads…) and here’s what we came up with!

The foil animals aren’t the most sturdy and they bend and dent a fair bit so we made up stories about them as we went along. Sometimes they got into fights, sometimes they fought wars, sometimes they were careless and fell down. Either ways, it was fun!