Winnie the Pooh The Radio Show brings cheerful confusion, expressive voices and a great classic to the stage.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

poohshowDoreen Taylor-Claxton, Nicole Milne, Robin Guy in Winnie-the-Pooh-The Radio Show (2)

Photo: William Beddoe`

This 7th year of mainstage Radio-Shows by Plosive productions  marks the 90th anniversary of the Winnie-the-Pooh Radio show as it was first broadcast by the BBC in 1925! What a fitting coincidence for A.A. Milne’s work that has become a classic text of young people’s literature. It can now be re-experienced by the generation that grew up reading Pooh stories, and it can also be rediscovered by the internet generation who might never read him but who has no doubt seen his animated movies.

That endearing bear of “very little brain” and his cohort of pals from the 100 Acre Wood come back to amuse us with this staged reading of David Whiteley’s adaptation from the original book and excerpts taken from the later (1929) version of the radio script. The original radio script was based on portions of articles and poems that the author first published in journals and magazines, before bringing all the written work together in his book in 1926.

The script was considerably shortened. The Gladstone Sisters trio sings period arrangements and brand new songs adapted and arranged from the era by Robin Guy as well as original music from the radio show. The voices of the trio are clear, beautiful and full of rhythm, the faces are cheerful, the costumes as the set are festive . Director Teri Loretto has introduced all the expected radio studio stage business that adds another level of contemporary humour, heightening the mystique of the radio recording studio where many real local radio personalities are in fact part of the cast.

Set in Canada, where multiple accents run through the various voices, the show creates the effect of a spontaneous radio event where live actors have just received the scripts sent in from Britain, where the on stage director Chris Ralph (who will be the voice of Winnie) distributes the roles of his cast, calms last minute panic, deals with questions and minor dissent, tells everyone where to stand , what not to do and manages to avoid chaos just minutes before the Winnie show goes live on air. At that moment, the visuals become less important and the voices take over.

We can almost close our eyes, listen to the dialogue and see those old drawings from the original Milne book. The voices dedramatize the individual characters, making them sound naïve and childish, even touching and at times moving. A necessary choice for this text supposedly spoken by young characters who barely know how to write but who are still able to discover playful events and unexpected relations within the world around them. The text is a chain of language games and word plays that easily attract all ages. The questions of class are not suggested here as they are in the original stories but even if portions of the humour appeal to adults, this is still not essentially an adult world. Each animal character reacts to unexpected situations as all the actors performing their comrades of the 100 Acre wood, are transformed into story-telling instruments, shifting the tone, the pitch and the rhythm as they spin out Milne’s text, the real star of the show. .

Chris Ralph emphasizes his upper tones as Winnie slurping his snacks nonstop from his beloved « hunny » pots. There is David Gerow ‘s bass baritone as the self-pitying depressive Eeyore whose slow southern drawl makes his sadness even sadder. Michelle Blanc brought out middle pitched flute –like tones as the trembling little Piglet and Kate Bunting moved between lower and upper registers as she became Christopher Robbin, the Rabbit, the Owl and others. And we have to mention Lawrence Wall, the real voice of CBC news , the narrator who sometimes found himself in the wrong script, leaving the on air voices reeling in panic. In fact chaos was a convenient device in this play as the narrator missed the cue, mistook the pages, jumped lines and allowed the performance to advance quickly without any explanation. Sometimes we wondered if the confusion was not intentional but it all worked beautifully.

Curiously, the personality who caught our eye was the one who said nothing at all.  Jonah Lerner, was a non stop comic act with near Marx Brothers overtones as the sound effects man. Surrounded by a hodge podge of articles, he as able to produce the right sound effects at the given moment. Flapping, snapping, gurgling, whistling, bubbling, flying dropping..you name it. . The presence of what was actually an old upright CBC sound machine gave his existence an uncanny form of authenticity . Especially when he pulled out those bottles hidden under the table and stole a slurp or two. Those unexpected moments that had the sound man painfully dumping his own precious liquid into that huge bowl, had us asking if that liquid really was meant for sound effects? If not, what a sad loss. Then there was the unbearable bladder pressure on the poor uncomfortable fellow that kept us glued to his movements up stage, until he rushed off into the wings. Such jokes were probably not caught by the children but no matter because they had nothing to do with A.A. Milne but lots to do with the director whose nod to the adult comic world of the period was almost a bit of a relief.

This is a good holiday show for young people. It is not only fun but it also brings them into the world of a great classic of English literature by making the experience totally painless and extremely joyful. An eight year old sitting behind me who came in looking rather bored, left the theatre much more enthused. It had held his attention for the whole 90 minutes (with a brief intermission). Amazing!

Winnie–the–Pooh The Radio Show. This Plosive Theatre production, plays until Decé 13 at the Gladstone Theatre

Winnie-the-Pooh: The Radio Show, based on stories by A. A. Milne,

Adapted by David Whiteley

Directed by Teri Loretto Valentik

Songs and arrangements: Robin Guy

Live Sound Effects: Jonah Lerner

A Plosive Theatre production

Cast:

Katie Bunting, David Gerow, Michelle Leblanc, Chris Ralph, Laurence Wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winnie-the-Pooh The Radio Show brings cheerful confusion, expressive voices and a great classic to the stage. 

It can now be re-experienced by the generation that grew up reading Pooh stories, and it can also be rediscovered by the internet generation who might never read him but who has no doubt seen his animated movies.

That endearing bear of “very little brain” and his cohort of pals from the 100 Acre Wood come back to amuse us with this staged reading of David Whiteley’s adaptation from the original book and excerpts taken from the later (1929) version of the radio script. The original radio script was based on portions of articles and poems that the author first published in journals and magazines, before bringing all the written work together in his book in 1926. The script was considerably shortened. The Gladstone Sisters trio sings period arrangements and brand new songs adapted and arranged from the era by Robin Guy as well as original music from the radio show. The voices of the trio are clear, beautiful and full of rhythm, the faces are cheerful, the costumes as the set are festive . Director Teri Loretto has introduced all the expected radio studio stage business that adds another level of contemporary humour, heightening the mystique of the radio recording studio where many real local radio personalities are in fact part of the cast.

Set in Canada, where multiple accents run through the various voices, the show creates the effect of a spontaneous radio event where live actors have just received the scripts sent in from Britain, where the on stage director Chris Ralph (who will be the voice of Winnie) distributes the roles of his cast, calms last minute panic, deals with questions and minor dissent, tells everyone where to stand , what not to do and manages to avoid chaos just minutes before the Winnie show goes live on air. At that moment, the visuals become less important and the voices take over.

We can almost close our eyes, listen to the dialogue and see those old drawings from the original Milne book. The voices dedramatize the individual characters, making them sound naïve and childish, even touching and at times moving. A necessary choice for this text supposedly spoken by young characters who barely know how to write but who are still able to discover playful events and unexpected relations within the world around them. The text is a chain of language games and word plays that easily attract all ages. The questions of class are not suggested here as they are in the original stories but even if portions of the humour appeal to adults, this is still not essentially an adult world. Each animal character reacts to unexpected situations as all the actors performing their comrades of the 100 Acre wood, are transformed into story-telling instruments, shifting the tone, the pitch and the rhythm as they spin out Milne’s text, the real star of the show. .

Chris Ralph emphasizes his upper tones as Winnie slurping his snacks nonstop from his beloved « hunny » pots. There is David Gerow ‘s bass baritone as the self-pitying depressive Eeyore whose slow southern drawl makes his sadness even sadder. Michelle Blanc brought out middle pitched flute –like tones as the trembling little Piglet and Kate Bunting moved between lower and upper registers as she became Christopher Robbin, the Rabbit, the Owl and others. And we have to mention Lawrence Wall, the real voice of CBC news , the narrator who sometimes found himself in the wrong script, leaving the on air voices reeling in panic. In fact chaos was a convenient device in this play as the narrator missed the cue, mistook the pages, jumped lines and allowed the performance to advance quickly without any explanation. Sometimes we wondered if the confusion was not intentional but it all worked beautifully.

Curiously, the personality who caught our eye was the one who said nothing at all, Jonah Lerner, was a non stop comic act with near Marx Brothers overtones as the sound effects man. Surrounded by a hodge podge of articles, he as able to produce the right sound effects at the given moment. Flapping, snapping, gurgling, whistling, bubbling, flying dropping..you name it. . The presence of what was actually an old upright CBC sound machine gave his existence an uncanny form of authenticity . Especially when he pulled out those bottles hidden under the table and stole a slurp or two. Those unexpected moments that had the sound man painfully dumping his own precious liquid into that huge bowl, had us asking if that liquid really was meant for sound effects? If not, what a sad loss. Then there was the unbearable bladder pressure on the poor uncomfortable fellow that kept us glued to his movements up stage, until he rushed off into the wings. Such jokes were probably not caught by the children but no matter because they had nothing to do with A.A. Milne but lots to do with the director whose nod to the adult comic world of the period was almost a bit of a relief.

This is a good holiday show for young people. It is not only fun but it also brings them into the world of a great classic of English literature by making the experience totally painless and extremely joyful. An eight year old sitting behind me who came in looking rather bored, left the theatre much more enthused. It had held his attention for the whole 90 minutes (with a brief intermission). Amazing!

Winnie–the–Pooh The Radio Show. This Plosive Theatre production, plays until Decé 13 at the Gladstone Theatre

Winnie-the-Pooh: The Radio Show, based on stories by A. A. Milne,

Adapted by David Whiteley

Directed by Teri Loretto Valentik

Songs and arrangements: Robin Guy

Live Sound Effects: Jonah Lerner

A Plosive Theatre production

Cast:

Katie Bunting, David Gerow, Michelle Leblanc, Chris Ralph, Laurence Wall


Past Reviews