Arts and Culture

Review: Blinky Bill is on the Loose

Posted on: Fri 19 Mar 2021

Find a nice gum tree and settle back as the iconic Australian bushland characters of Blinky Bill re-emerge from the treetops for this year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Blinky Bill is on The Loose is an energetic display of children’s musical theatre including a talented and animated cast cleverly combined with original toe-tapping tunes for all.

Theatre Bugs – in collaboration with Koala Life – have created KoBugs Theatre Company which merged the forces between art and science to ingeniously bring to stage Robert Kimber’s adaptation of Dorothy Wall’s Blinky Bill. A trip down memory lane transformed the nostalgic percussions of an Australian classic into a potent lesson for the future.

The natural surrounds of the Wetlands Amphitheatre in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens offered an inviting setting for both older and younger generations, where sounds of distant birdlife met with music by Michael Mills. The audience was introduced to a young Blinky (David Salter), his mother Mrs Koala (Claire McEvoy), Go-Go Goanna (Jamie Hornsby) and Angelina Wallaby (Chloe Bremner) in an open, minimalist set on the backdrop of dusk. Fast-paced and energetic choreography by Carol Wellman Kelly swiftly embraced the talents of this versatile cast, three of which later transformed into multiple characters.

With the encouragement of Mrs Koala, the innocent and somewhat goofy Blinky began his journey of discovery and learning in the expanse of the wide world. Following his curiosity, he grows into the cheeky, mischievous koala loved by all he meets along the way.

New characters emerged as the energetic, interactive narrative propelled further. Kimber’s script was cleverly interlaced with some insightful abstractions; the dark cast of the intrusive ‘two legged’ monsters: Axe, (Hornsby) the destroyer of Australian bushland, Mrs Grab, (McEvoy) who seeks to convert Koala habitat into profit, and Flame, (Bremner) the raging fire throughout precious environment. The villainous gang posed threat to Blinky and his humble community, prompting the values of environmental conservation, and proactivity in a world that ‘needs our daily care.’

Kimber’s adaptation brought specific focus to Australian native wildlife where foxes no longer exist and rabbits are replaced by bilbies. The connection to Australian cultural archetypes is foreground with the return of some other familiar characters. George the Galah (voice by Ali Clark) casts his watchful eye to ensure the wellbeing of his furry friends below while Professor Wombat (Hornsby) – Professor of all things distinguished – offers another guiding hand of wisdom.

Light hearted, catchy lyrics (Bob Kimber and Michael Mills) exploded to produce continued engagement that had children (and adults!) bopping in their seats to the beat of ten, fantastic educational tunes.

From beginning to end, the performance inspired more than imagination and this beautifully adapted, timeless classic is made accessible to all through a multitude of talent and collaboration.

Director Michael Eustice’s production illustrated the importance of natural sustainability and gently pulsed the fortitude of conservation and environmental protection.

Through the familiar childhood favourite we are reminded to uphold a world where jumpers exist with climbers, real friends lend a hand and everything is done better together.

By Emma Wotzke

Audio pending

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