"Shona Reppe’s juicy production for toddlers and preschoolers is ripe for the picking" Time Out New York ***** By Beth Greenfield Monday, April 11, 2011
If you’ve ever pined for a time when apples and blackberries were nothing more than fruits—and when children’s entertainment required no digital bells and whistles to be successful—then Potato Needs A Bath will leave you feeling satisfied. The show, a half-hour production for the two- to five-year-old set at New Victory Theater's intimate studio space, is the creation of Andy Manley and Shona Reppe; Reppe, a Scottish children’s storyteller and puppeteer, serves as the show’s sole star. The premise is refreshingly simple: It’s Potato’s birthday. All his friends (Plum, Banana, Orange, Aubergine, Onion and a pair of cherries) are arriving for the party, but Potato is covered in mud and needs a bath—something he's studiously avoiding. Reppe enters the intimate theater from behind her young audience, and takes the stage looking like an artsy auntie in a bright-green vintage dress and yellow apron. She starts preparing for the party by making sure all the guests (the various fruits and vegetables) are ready, pulling each out of little drawers and introducing them to the kids. A lullaby chimes in when she presents the baby carrots, the Onion starts rehearsing Spanish music on a miniature guitar, and the cherry twins do a lot of bickering. There are just enough clever lines aimed at the adults (“Aubergine is fabulous,” she says, when discovering the jewelry-loving eggplant is not in her drawer but has left her light on. “But she’s not very green.”). And the combination of Reppe’s ingenious stage set—a bright, vintage kitchen with bread-box–type contraptions that open to reveal mini worlds—and magnetic narration are more than enough to keep a roomful of toddlers and preschoolers rapt with attention. In the end, Potato gets well scrubbed, the guests wear party hats (as do the young tots watching, who get to color their own before the show), and the produce dances till it drops. It’s fruity, yes. But remarkably fresh—and sweet.
nytheatre.com review Wendy Remington Bowie · April 9, 2011
Shona Reppe is throwing one heck of a good party at the New Victory Theater.
In her Potato Needs a Bath, Reppe creates a magical and richly imaginative world. It’s Potato’s birthday and Reppe and the other fruits and vegetables are preparing for Potato’s birthday party. Naughty Potato needs a bath before the guests arrive, but keeps running out to play instead of coming in to get washed up for his party. As the party preparations progress we meet Potato’s friends. There’s Madame Aubergina, the glamorous singing eggplant, the musical Spanish Onion, the squabbling twin Cherries. Poor little Peach has fallen while jumping on her bed and needs a bandage. And as the party preparations go on, we must be sure not to wake the napping baby carrots.
The detailed and highly personalized characters come out of an enchanting chest of drawers which serves almost as their apartment complex and the home base for the piece. Each fruit and vegetable has its own drawer which serves as its room and each is specifically decorated for that vegetable or fruit.
Indeed Reppe’s set is nothing short of magic and pretty much serves as its own character. Like a puzzle box, little mini sets for the vegetables swing open out of drawers and from within boxes. Sometimes we get to peer inside the private quarters of the vegetables, for example when we visit Green Pepper, who is feeling blue and doesn’t want come to the party because he is missing his friend Red Pepper. Turntables create magical dance floors where the party guests dance the Mango Tango or two Pears fall in love. Bunting appears from nowhere and turns the place instantly into a party. Reppe uses magnets (I presume) and sleight-of-hand to create a captivating world that conjures up the parts of childhood where absolutely nothing is not possible. I often found myself giggling with surprise and wonder.
This is a piece that does not play down to children, but creates a world that fully engages their imaginations and creativity—one where fruits and vegetables have private lives and detailed personalities. Reppe and co-creator Andy Manley have created a fully invested world and a space where young children can very willingly and ably participate in the story by being fully and totally present and imagining and creating along with the performer—not necessarily by getting up on stage or shouting out. Every instant you are in the space you are part of and participating in this world. The lobby is full of fruit and vegetable decorations and while waiting for the house to open, we decorated party hats to wear to the party. The kids are given a goody bag on the way out.
I found the show quite funny though most of the out-loud laughs came from the adults in response to the clever, silly, yet never cloying humor (I have a feeling the kids just invested in the characters so fully and believed in their truth so much that they guilelessly accepted this world at face value) . The piece is suggested for 2-5 year olds, but I saw children as old as 9 fully enjoying it. There are chairs but parents are encouraged to sit on pillows on the floor with their kids so if that works for you be sure to dress to move (I didn’t). Parent-friendly amenities like stroller parking and a snack bar are provided. What could be better than having all the fun of a birthday party that doesn’t end with a caked-up, sugar fueled kid?
Thank you for having us. This was a really lovely party. We had such a great time!
Published on 2 Nov 2009 The Glasgow Herald
Chips anyone? You may think twice after seeing this play by Mary Brennan Star rating: ****
The merry medley of fruit and veg that Shona Reppe associates with in this delightfully whimsical puppet play probably doesn’t count towards the five-a-day recommended for young and old. Actually, after watching the way Reppe cunningly characterises her highly realistic cast, some tender souls might baulk at nibbling Mr and Mrs Pear or their son William. As for chips? Perish the thought – not least because we’ve all gathered together for Potato’s birthday party, though if he doesn’t allow Reppe to give him a bath, our little mud-encrusted chum with the funny voice won’t be joining in any of the games. The two to four-year-olds that Reppe had in mind when she devised this piece are, quite rightly, captivated by the imaginatively crafted miniature world on stage, and by the way ordinary objects are suddenly transformed so that a teapot turns into a lamp, or a rotary whisk becomes a telephone. And when a wee chest of drawers is used like a doll’s house, full of intriguing occupants – the baby carrots, snoozing in one compartment, the bejewelled boudoir of an operatic aubergine in another – then the stream of witty surprises seems endless. Sly puns, appreciated by attendant adults, cheerfully cheesy music and Reppe’s own amiable star quality – she narrates/manipulates/chats and sings – are underpinned by meticulous production values and an attention to detail that doesn’t deal in compromise. Mischievous Potato scrubs up beautifully, but there are a few more twists and some inspired visual tricks before it’s time to cover up the fruit bowl and reluctantly say goodbye to a solo performance packed with vitamins M and F (Magic and Fun – essential to wellbeing!).
On Saturday my son and I went to take in a puppet show at the New Victory’s New 42nd St. Studios. The show was called Potato Needs A Bath, and it was devised by Scottish storyteller and puppeteer Shona Reppe, who last appeared at the New Victory in 2009 with her version of Cinderella. I wrote a preview article about it on my dad blog, http://www.dadapalooza.com, and you can read that article here.
[FULL DISCLOSURE: We were given free tickets in hopes that I would write about it. As I really try to only write about things I like, I have no problems with that. I promise you, the free tickets did not color my opinion of the show.] I call this a puppet show, because Shona Reppe bills herself as a puppeteer, but one could well call it a clown show. A slightly eccentric and dotty woman throws a birthday party for a potato, and invites all sorts of other vegetables and fruits. Some of the other characters include the twin cherries, who double as earrings; Madame Aubergina, who is quite haughty and wears all sorts of jewels, the pear family, Mr., Mrs. and their son William, a plum that goes potty, as well as a host of others. The star of the show, Potato, loves mud, and in fact manages to get it nearly everywhere he goes. Before his party, he needs to get his first ever bath, which Shona (playing a character called Rudie Bayga) gives him, much to his dismay.
The premise is rich, and Shona really follows through on everything. . The stage and set design is simple, yet evocative, with some innovative uses for various kitchen appliances and some nice sleight of hand magic. The puppets are very well done, and handily placed magnets make everything stick exactly where they should. Pre-show involves creating a special party hat in the lobby , as well of perusing the Veggie and Fruit Hall of Fame (Meet the Beetles, with Mango Starr and John Lemon.)
In a word, the show is delightful, and as I predicted in my preview, both I and my son were entranced by the work. You should definitely see this show if you can, even if you don’t have a 2 year old.
Shona Reppe (Puppets) is a limited company registered in Scotland and recognised as a Scottish Charity, Company number 267273. Charity Number SC035750 Registered Office: Catherine Wheels, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, EH21 6AF, Producer/Administrative Support: Louise Gilmour Wills