Stick Man

Playhouse Theatre, Sydney Opera House, January 12 at 2pm

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Paul Kane, William Cooper and Claire Dargo in Stick Man. Photo: Jacquie Manning

Sydney families have embraced recent stage adaptations of The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child and Room on the Broom. Now comes Stick Man, another delightful show for young children aged 3+, also based on a popular picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

Staged by UK company Scamp Theatre, the production premiered in 2010 and has since played in London’s West End and toured internationally.

Stick Man tells the story of a happy, healthy stick who leaves his family tree to go for a walk one morning and finds himself caught up in one sticky situation after another. At the mercy of a dog, a karate-kicking girl who uses him as a Pooh stick, a swan, the ocean waves, and a pair of cricket-playing, sand castle-building beach-goers, he feels “used and abused”. Finally, he is thrown on a log fire but is rescued by Santa Claus and happily reunited with his family.

Performed by three Scottish actors, the exuberant 55-minute production is imaginatively staged using puppets, catchy songs, cute dance moves, lighting effects and other clever touches such as umbrellas to represent the ocean.

There is also plenty of gentle audience participation with a chase through the audience by Stick Man, the dog and a park keeper, and children catching beach balls and huge rubber rings and returning them to the stage. One little girl wept on her mother’s shoulder when another child beat her to the beach ball, but when it came flying out into the audience again, another mother in the row behind made sure it reached her and her smiling face was a picture. The magic of theatre (and kindly theatre-goers)!

The three actors are all terrific. William Cooper plays the put-upon Stick Man, Claire Dargo is the dog, swan, martial arts-loving girl and a beach-goer, while Paul Kane plays the other characters and also supplies live music (performed to a jaunty backing track) and sound effects, playing ukulele, saxophone, penny whistle and a neat little percussion kit on the side of the stage.

The children all around me clearly had a lovely time and I heard several singing the catching Stick Man song in the foyer afterwards.

Stick Man plays at the Playhouse, Sydney Opera House until January 17. Bookings: www.sydneyoperahouse.com or 02 9250 7777

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