Review of I Theatre’s Aesop’s Fables

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All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts…” – As You Like It by William Shakespeare

When master storyteller Aesop first presented his fables more than 2,000 years ago, he imbued them with a sense of justice and morality. This collection of more than 600 tales often served as a moral compass to guide people towards thinking of others rather than solely about themselves. I Theatre, in its usual tradition of seeking out stories with moral values, has taken eight of these tales, and transformed them into dramatic pieces that children and adults alike can relate with. This is done through the ensemble actors of the travelling Crowfoot Troupe, who attempt to tell the stories in a manner that is sometimes humorous but at other times seriously sombre.

Artistic Director Brian Seward adopts elements of the Brechtian tradition in this production. Actors were encouraged to physically “show” their characters instead of being wholly transformed into their parts; this was so as to convey the dramatic direction experienced by a travelling troupe, whose actors are required to be versatile so as to play many different parts at different timings. In this regard, props were also kept simple yet interesting, for instance the use of onions instead of eggs for the story of “The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs”, and the use of colourful Chinese fans for the peacock feathers in “The Jay And The Peacock”. This is not to say that the stage setting was sparse. On the contrary, bright colours were splashed across the stage, through the lovely stage designs and costumes.AF
In true I Theatre style, the musical team of Bang Wenfu, Sara Wee and Julian Wong brought the stories to life with their interesting composition and arrangement of music, which was drawn from many genres. Of particular interest was the 1960s’ rock number performed in “Androcles And The Lion”. It was also hard to forget the Asian music and dance routine preformed by the peacocks in the story “The Jay And The Peacock”.

The strength of I Theatre’s “Aesop’s Fables” lies in the narration of the stories themselves. This production is after all a dramatic narration of a famous storyteller’s moralistic tales. In this regard, the I Theatre ensemble actors drew out the humorous elements of the stories, such as in “The Fox And The Crow”, where the outlandish flattery of the Crow by the Fox led to many comic moments. The team was also able to portray the serious and sad nature of life, such as in “The Sheep And The Wolf”, where the simple-minded sheep exchanged their friend, the Sheepdog, for an enemy, the Wolf, with disastrous consequences.

Aesops Fables is running at the Jubilee Hall from now to 21 March 2015.

Aesop’s Fables Activity Sheets

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