The Kennedy Center presents Emily Loves to Bounce, an energetic mix of light, illusion, music, and mime from Patch Theatre Company of Adelaide, Australia.
Set and Lighting Designer Geoff Cobham covers the stage with white boxes of varying size, with spotlights hitting some of them in a way that illuminates them with a bright light. In this production, the props make up the set – the performers use everything in many different ways, from the boxes and hanging lanterns, to hundreds of colorful, plastic balls. Wearing casual, everyday clothes, the performers emerge from the boxes, much to the young audience’s surprise and delight. Zoe Barry and Belinda Gehlert provide live music onstage throughout the show using a variety of instruments, including the violin and ukulele. The music follows the character’s emotional changes throughout the show, going from fast and playful to suspenseful and cautious whenever needed.
Amy (Sarah Brokensha) is a pragmatic young girl who enjoys organization and structure, shown while neatly stacking and lining the boxes onstage. She meets Henry (Tim Overton), a frenzied, impulsive young boy, and her true polar opposite. The two decide to play together, but their different natures clash repeatedly, beginning with Henry insisting that the boxes onstage are actually castles or rowboats, to which Amy points and says, “No, it’s just a box.” There is little dialogue, as most of the plot is shown through expressive movement, music, and use of props. Henry introduces Amy to “Emily,” a large bouncy ball that frustrates Amy when she realizes that it will not sit still. The boxes and balls do well to symbolize the character’s different personalities, which brings a sweet depth to their story as they begin to find different ways to play with the objects.
And do they, ever! With each twist more imaginative than the last, the children in the audience (and, okay, the adults as well) are completely immersed in the action. A song is sung about direction (right/left, up/down, back/front) and a very entertaining scene shows Amy being chased by the boxes, which have begun to move on their own! Perhaps most impressive was the use of shadow puppetry: the characters used paper cut-outs and strong lighting to project shadows onto a large screen as well as the backdrop of the stage. The use of illusion through these methods, designed by Geoff Cousins, is exceptional. Towards the end of the show, the stage is flooded with plastic balls, which stirred so much enthusiasm that many children attempted to swarm the stage, causing a moment of exciting chaos!
This story of budding friendship is sweet, fun, and packed with imagination! Everyone in the audience enjoyed themselves, myself included. For children four years old and up, Emily Loves to Bounce is a charming, interactive treat.
Running Time: 60 minutes.
Emily Loves to Bounce has one remaining performance at 4 PM on Sunday, May 13, 2012 at The Kennedy Center’s Family Theater – 700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (202) 467-4600, or order them online.