Blinky Bill Is On The Loose

8.7

Production

8.5/10

Performance

8.5/10

Content

9.0/10

Things we loved

  • Captures the essence of Blinky Bill
  • True moments of wonderful naivety from the cuddly hero
  • Songs were strong and well performed

Things we would reconsider

  • Noisy children with unresponsive parents can impact enjoyment of the show (knowingly noted by a reviewer-parent)
  • Would love to see more nuance in the human/nature narrative in future productions

When John Williamson sang goodbye to Blinky Bill in 1986, many of us believed that would be the last we’d hear about this “quaint little Australian” created by Dorothy Wall in the 1930s.

But, as it happens, Michael Eustice and his KoBugs Theatre Company, has brought Blinky Bill to life in a new musical for children, Blinky Bill Is On The Loose.

Playwright, Robert Kimber, has masterfully interwoven key elements from Blinky Bill stories to create a show that introduces us to Blinky and his friends, and then gives us a taste of his adventures out into the big “round” world.

In this show, Blinky Bill (David Salter) receives his name and then sets out to see what he can discover. There are many nice moments in the story where characters mention words that receive a blank look or puzzled reaction from Blinky, joyfully capturing his naive and tree-based perspective of things. Fish? What are they?

Claire McEvoy, plays a series of characters from Blinky’s mum to the prim-and-proper Mrs Spotty Frog from Frog Hollow School. She also plays the rather posh and snooty, Lady Beatrice Bandicoot, much to the delight of the children present, due to her indignant surprise each time Blinky secretly pulls her tail.

Chloe Bremner has returned to Adelaide to be in this production, in which she starts as Angelina Wallaby, and progresses through a number of characters before taking on her brightest and most memorable one, Bobbin The Bilby. In her interaction with Blinky Bill, there are some smile-inducing moments as they descend into the underground tunnels, especially due to some fun usage of echo in the subterranean cavern.

Jamie Hornsby’s strongest role is as Professor Wombat, who counsels Blinky a couple of times through the show, with his “scariest” role being “Axe”. Axe is one of the two-legged vandals (humans) who threaten to down trees, wipe out vegetation, and capture or scare away the animals.

On the issue of anti-human and pro-nature messages in the show, these elements appear to be a little heavy handed and black-and-white (blinkered Bill anybody?). However, one expects they are in keeping with the “passion” that’s driving the production’s principal sponsor, Koala Life. That said, the adoption of simple messages in this show is also in keeping with the flavour of traditional kids’ entertainment that the creative team has adopted, one in which there are exagerated movements, “they’re behind you” moments, and liberal use of “call and response”.

Still, there is fun aplenty in this production, which is ably helped along by a set of catchy songs by Michael Mills. These songs are like tableaux or freeze frames during the story, capturing elements of this anthropomorphic character’s world, in a way that Wall’s own illustrations have captured the spirit of this curious creature.

Set on a landing behind the Botanic Gardens’ Goodman Building, the stage area has a backdrop of the First Creek Wetland complete with its ample greenery and inquisitive birdlife. On opening night, some birds perched closely to watch this performance, attracted by either the commotion, or the amplified voice of George The Galah (Ali Clarke).

Blinky Bill Is On The Loose is a wonderful vehicle for four fine actors to carry the narrative of a timeless Australian children’s classic, made even more special by knowing they have the blessing of Dorothy Wall’s granddaughter, Janet Badgery.