Taken down by Andrew Bell to Isabella's dictation
I took my grandfather on Saturday to Hush-a-Bye in the BT Studio tree-tops. The
Oily Cart folk had thoughtfully prepared little tables, painted with green
squiggly lines, for us tots to perch at. When we had left off fondling the huge
cabbage leaves and pottery bowls on the table tops, we were entranced by the
forest of giant foliage all around us.
Then I saw that three huge woodland birds – I think they may have been ostriches, or possibly emus or cassowaries, but most likely emus since ostriches and cassowaries are quite cross birds whereas these birds were all cuddly and jubbly – were walking around. There was Grandpa (Griff Fender), Grandma (Katherine Gray), Kadialy Kouyate and Deanne Jones, all layered with feathers. The others were turquoise, rust and every colour you could think of but Kadialy was a grey and yellow bird and he was plucking gently at a lute-type of instrument. He told my grandfather afterwards that it's called a kora. It comes from Senegal and he learned to play it from his father who learned it from his father and so on back down the generations.
Soon we had a treat because we were given handfuls of feathers to put in our bowls and there was golden glitter, too, and then they sang a song:
"Herbs and flowers
And special powers....
to make a nest...
the best way to make a nest..."
and all the time Kadialy was playing his kora and I think there was some music too from the electronic console but I'm not quite sure because there was so much to look at and hear that the different elements became mixed-up in one big parcel of fun. And that fun was soothing and exciting all at the same time.
Then some baby chicks appeared from giant white eggs and they were handed out and they were soft. The chicks were hungry, too, and so we looked for worms in the worm-holes and then we were all given umbrella leaves on bendy stalks that we had to wave, and next suddenly from nowhere there was a wind and down came a shower of leaves all around us. I looked up in wonder and the leaves just quietly whisked my face as they pitter-pattered down to the forest floor.
Then a ginormous leaf came down on a branch from the flies above. It had to be unwrapped and inside there was a baby wrapped in an orange scarf and of course we sang "Hush-a-Bye, Baby" and I was so dazed by everything going on that I forgot I already knew the song and by the time I was sure, it was over! But it didn't matter because Grandma came round and asked why the baby was looking worried and what did it need: and I whispered "milk" quite quietly but Katherine heard me and repeated it and said "well done!" and I was rewarded with some extra feathers.
Then the baby was rocked in a cradle that looked quite like a crescent moon while the four big birds sang, starting off loudly and bit by bit turning the song into a lilting lullaby. Then it was time to go, but the show had been such a treat for all five of my senses that I couldn't believe how the 40 minutes had flown by.
As my grandpa (not their grandpa) pushed me along Beaumont St afterwards in my buggy, I heard him say that Hush-a-Bye was a deceptively complex drama perfectly positioned for its target 3-5 year olds by writer/company founder Tim Webb. The elaborate set design (Jens Cole and Nikki Pontin) and costumes (Deborah Williams) were been things of beauty, and the music (Max Reinhardt and Kadialy) was fresh and tailor-made rather than something borrowed from rent-a-songbook. The actors and director had gone at it with sympathetic skill and humour. I also heard him say that Oily Cart had approached the production with no less thought or energy than had they been putting on a Hamlet or a Cherry Orchard.