Taiwan Season: The Backyard Story

The Backyard Story, directed by Chen-Chieh Sun with lively music composed by Chien-Hsun Chen, is a charming black-light theatre show for children aged 5+. It features two human neighbours who are spiteful to each other as they try to rival each other’s colourful clothes on a washing-line. At night, when touched by a magic red balloon, the clothes come alive and dance through various relationships, boy/girl courtship and family scenes.

A rather old-fashioned moral ending for western tastes nowadays but it's charmingly done.

At this venue, the ultra-light necessary for full black-light theatre effects is not available, so the puppeteers are visible in their all-black costumes, masked faces and hoods, climbing on and off stools and manipulating the clothes but the children in the audience were fascinated regardless. As the story unfolded, the puppeteers were forgotten and soon all eyes were on the dancing polka-dot skirt, lace blouse, mauve dress and white trousers covered in sparkling designs.

The show aims to appeal to a wide age-range of primary school children. This means some elements will interest older children more than younger ones, such as the two pairs of white trousers’ rivalry for the blouse, skirt and dress, or the courtship scene, with a red jacket and mauve dress sitting side by side on two swings. But this is followed by an enchanting scene which might be more appealing to the younger ones, where the couple, now parents, play with their toddler, a little yellow jumper. There’s a delightful moment when he sneezes and the parents insist on piling on more and more layers of clothing, including scarves, hat and gloves.

A storm adds drama and there’s a heart-stopping moment when the mauve dress (the mother) is blown away and the yellow jumper (the toddler) is left alone. The younger children in the audience were audibly upset. Unfortunately, the clothes family are not reunited in the show. This may cause distress to some sensitive children, and there’s a long wait before the yellow jumper is shown again skipping along and swinging acrobatically on the washing-line. It's surprisingly happy at the end of the show, despite the lack of parents in sight.

However, the show does end on a pleasingly positive note. Involving the two humans, it could be considered a rather old-fashioned moral ending for western tastes nowadays but it's charmingly done. Overall, this show will be an enjoyable experience for all the family.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

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The Blurb

Let your imagination run as the jackets, shirts, dresses and trousers make friends and form relationships, reflecting those between parents, children and others. When you get home, can you make your clothes come to life like this? Taiwan’s first black-light object theatre company, Puppet Beings Theatre, seek to summon back the innocence of childhood and inject fresh vitality into children’s theatre by using everyday items and combining the contemporary with traditional puppet arts.

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