The cast of "Grug" in action (Windmill Theatre)
Grug smartly doesn't lean too heavily on words to convey its story, relying instead on visual elements.
—Joff Schmidt, reviewer
I don't recall exactly what I was into when I was a one year old, but I'm pretty sure I would've been delighted by Grug, the latest show at Manitoba Theatre For Young People.
Presented by Windmill Theatre from Australia (where the character Grug stars in a series of hugely popular picture books), MTYP is targeting this production at theatre-goers as young as one - and it's charming and eye-catching enough that it'll probably work for them.
There's not much story to get in the way of Grug. Our title character, represented here by a hand puppet, is a gentle creature who sort of resembles a thatched hut with feet and big, rolling eyes. We follow along as Grug receives a series of unexpected packages in the mailbox of his burrow in a hill - from seeds for his garden to a giant red apple.
Grug's problems - like trying to plant his garden, or an attempt at playing soccer with his pal Cara the Carpet Snake - are pretty basic, and all happily resolved. It's not terribly dramatic, so this'll definitely go over best with pre-schoolers who don't demand a more complicated story, but it is delightful.
Grug smartly doesn't lean too heavily on words to convey its story, relying instead on visual elements. Grug's origin is related in storybook fashion, using colourful drawings. His home, designed by Jonathon Oxlade, is exactly the kind of place a kid would love to play - a cut-away of a rolling hill has doors that open to cleverly reveal everything from Grug's burrow to the roots of his garden to the fishing hole where he takes an unexpected dip.
The likeable and energetic three-member company (Hamish Fletcher, Ellen Steele, and Matt Crook) also use sound effectively - mostly goofy noises they make themselves - to keep kids entertained and move the story along. There's even a fun dance break for everyone to join in about midway through the show.
It ends smartly - though too abruptly - around the 30 minute mark, so it shouldn't test your kids' patience too much. If they've still got energy after the show - and they probably will - they can even line up to come onstage to say good-bye to Grug and his pals.
I don't think a one-year-old could ask for much more in his or her theatre experience.