See The Velveteen Rabbit live on stage at Family Fiesta

See The Velveteen Rabbit live on stage at Family Fiesta

Artistic Directors Penny Baron and Carolyn Hanna are passionate about building incredible live experiences that empowers children to play. Come along and see their adaptation of The Velveteen Rabbit at Monash University's Alexander Theatre in the winter school holidays, commissioned by Monash University Performing Arts Centres'. 

Why do you do what you do?

Our work values children's imaginative worlds and gives them permission to play. We love to make work that is incredibly responsive and alive. Work that surprises audiences of all ages. We feel the energy of an audience and take them to places they don’t expect. As improvisers we know how to whip up a storm or build glorious moments of beauty, melancholy and reflection. We like to make work that is physically driven with a keen attention to the visual and emotional ingredients. We believe our work creates a shared live experience that empowers children to play together in a safe space and leave, feeling emboldened.

Tell us about Born in a Taxi?

Born in a Taxi is one of Melbourne’s most highly regarded, award-winning independent theatre companies. Recognised for creating highly original, participatory works in theatres, public spaces and festivals. Born in a Taxi has three decades of experience creating original works for audiences of all ages, including several commissioned works by Arts Centre Melbourne for young audiences.

What shows have you loved doing?

This is a tricky question as Taxi has made a diverse range of shows, each one we adore like children we have lovingly brought into the world. But if I had to choose, it has been a real highlight taking our outdoor shows like Whale's Tale and Curious Game to other countries and cultures around the world including New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and America.

Tell us a little about what you’re doing at Monash University Performing Arts Centres?

We are very excited to be finally premiering our new work The Velveteen Rabbit for children 4-8 and their adults. We have made a work that will be as engaging for the adults as much as the children in the audience. Created to be a shared experience they can talk about and refer to long after they have left the theatre. The Velveteen Rabbit brings so many elements of the company’s work together. Physical comedy, audience interaction, strong design and attention to visual aesthetic, turning the expectations of a traditional theatre show on its head.

What is The Velveteen Rabbit?

The Velveteen Rabbit is inspired by the much-loved children's book, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. It is a playful, visual, interactive, and poetic theatre show with emotionally rich themes of the book. The toys are in charge of an unpredictable adventure about a toy rabbit who becomes real, but how did it happen? Velveteen Rabbit infuses dynamic audience participation, skilled clowning, live feed video and projections to reflect the unique perspective of the child.

What should kids expect when they come to see the show?

We don’t want kids to expect anything beyond feeling excited that they will have a rollicking good time going to see a show with their own favourite soft toy. What we have in store for them will take them to places of extreme excitement, laughter, tenderness, chaos and touch on some deeper feelings about loving, being loved and feeling different. This show at its heart is about becoming. It’s about a toy that becomes fully themselves through the love of another. Whether you are young or old, don’t forget to bring your favourite toy or grab one from our borrow box in the foyer.

What’s the process of creating a show like The Velveteen Rabbit?

This is a group devised work, meaning we have created this work with many collaborators, led by Carolyn and myself. We spent a lot of time talking through the themes and what we felt children needed from a theatre experience after two years of COVID lockdown where many children have never seen or been into the theatre. We did a development showing last year to 250 school children and the Alexander Theatre was bristling with energy, attention and serious fun. Testing our work in front of audiences is always part of our process of making work. We can’t wait to see the response now we have taken the show to the next level!

We wanted this show to be a warm, welcoming, inclusive, playful experience that also has depth and touches on some of the challenges children may currently be facing socially or emotionally since lockdown. Carolyn and I both have children so have felt first-hand the impact of the recent years. Interestingly the book was set with the backdrop of scarlet fever 100 years ago so it has new relevance now.

Any funny experiences with audience members you can share?

One of Taxi’s super powers is audience interaction, something we’ve developed over many years of working in public spaces. We love to make opportunities for children to become stars in our shows and have travelled the world working with audiences of all ages in this way. During our shows children have transformed into lions, tightrope walkers, contortionists, game show hosts, queens, kings, clowns, chess pieces, shrimp and heroes. We are constantly amazed at the imaginations, courage and skills that children embody. 

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See the The Velveteen Rabbit (and other awesome shows) these school holidays at the Family Fiesta. Four days of family fun with a jam-packed program of literature, art and live performance: 28 June – 1 July. See here for for information.

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