Dogs Don't Do Ballet Puppet Show - Review

Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp and illustrated by Sara Olgilvi is one of my favourite books. Working as a bookseller in Melbourne I hand sold many copies of this beautifully illustrated, beautiful story. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun and it has a great message. When I first heard it was being adapted for the stage my heart sank. There is a building tradition for theses sorts of adaptations and occasionally they translate wonderfully but often they don’t.

I saw the puppet show on tour at the Norwich Puppet Theatre and I can reassure you that it was well worth it. It was gorgeous, well performed and the spunky very two-dimensional illustrations danced into a great three-dimensional puppet Keith Frederick’s puppet world very nicely. (No awkward Angelina Ballerina giant mouse heads here). Biff, the dog in particular was adorable. The creative team David Duffy and Andrea Sadler in conjunction with The Little Angel Theatre have produced a great interpretation. 

I would say that as with every adaptation it was a fine line between adding in more content and working with what you’ve got. In expanding the role of the dance teacher, we got excellent audience interaction but it did move away from Biff and Anna as the central characters a little bit. My favourite sequence of the show was lifted directly out of the book – where Biff follows Anna to her ballet class. It was done so cleverly and so well that it won me completely over. Tim Sykes’ set at this point was also transformed wonderfully, so it was visually engaging as well as using the original story effectively.

This puppet show deserves its acclaim and success and the little ones in the performance were held captivated for the entire show. I also though hope it encourages people to return to the book, because it still remains a favourite of mine and it will hopefully continue the magic of the show beyond the stage and into the imaginations of many little ballerinas.

Dogs Don’t Do Ballet is bound to pop up again, so make sure you see it when it does.