There’s so much to see and do these school holidays, but an afternoon at the theatre is an activity that will live on in your children’s memories for years to come. North Shore Mum Melissa Dibben reviews Monkey Baa Theatre’s production of The Peasant Prince – an adaptation of Li Cunxin’s classic story Mao’s Last Dancer, but for kids.
Li Cunxin’s tale of his amazing life has been beautifully brought to life for a younger audience in Monkey Baa Theatre Company’s The Peasant Prince, now playing at the Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre in Darling Harbour.
The Peasant Prince is the picture book adaptation of the critically acclaimed Mao’s Last Dancer, now adapted as a play for children. This production thoughtfully depicts Li Cunxin’s story as a peasant boy, his family living in poverty in Mao’s China and his determination to make something of himself to escape extreme hardship.
The theatre is small and intimate, giving the audience an opportunity to feel like they are involved. The four actors beautifully convey the story, three of whom playing a number of characters, all an important part of Li Cunxin’s journey.
My sons (6 and 4) were captivated by the simple staging and clever use of animated backdrops to illustrate each scene throughout the one hour production. The recurrent use of Chinese fables also helped the younger members of the audience to understand the key themes of trying your best to achieve your dreams through hard work and determination. My eldest understood the sacrifices that Li Cunxin’s parents had made for him and their desire that he leave their simple poverty stricken life behind.
At one point he asked if Li Cunxin was leaving so that he could provide food for his mother as she was hungry. He also liked that the story came full circle, finishing in the same way it began (no spoilers!).
My younger son was sad that Li Cunxin left his family to go to Beijing but understood that he could become a famous dancer if he kept practising, even when it was hard to go on. It was really refreshing to see a story with such emotion and strong themes retold so that a younger audience could still enjoy and understand it, whilst at the same time not overwhelmingthem with all the intricacies of the issues. Audience members were also encouraged to write a wish on a piece of card and tie it to some wire, representing a kite, just as Li Cunxin did with his wishes as a child.
The theatre is located in Darling Harbour, opposite the children’s play area, about 10 minutes walk down Bathurst St from Town Hall station. We arrived early for the 12.30 performance to give us time for lunch and to enjoy all the play area had to offer.
The Peasant Prince is showing at Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre these April school holidays – show daily at 10.30am and 12.30pm – until Wednesday 20 April. Click here for more details or to book tickets.
More activities for kids…