While we waited in the main foyer for the usher to direct us up to the Swamp Juice stage, there was certainly plenty to keep the kids entertained. Ipswich Art Gallery always does a great job at providing interactive activities for children, so we enjoyed some bead-threading, playing on the touchscreens and creating pipe cleaner animals before the show began.
When the time came, we were ushered to the stage which consisted of ‘VIP seating’ for the kids on cushions right up the front, and chairs for the adults at the back. The scene for Swamp Juice was set, the lights were dimmed and the sound of insects and birds surrounded us, just like we were sitting in a dingy in the middle of a swamp.
The big white screen took pride of place on the stage and was where all of the action took place. Funny shaped objects hung at the back of the stage, pegged to a rope. Some newbies behind us did not know what they were in for and we heard them discuss how they thought the show might pan out. We smiled, remembering that we had wondered the same thing last year, knowing they’d be pleasantly surprised and would soon be laughing along with everyone in the room.
And then, Jeff Achtem, a peculiar fellow and the creator of the show, appeared, pulling funny faces, talking strangely, yet being able to make everyone laugh in an instant with his oddities. My four year old didn’t hold back and called out, “You’re crazy!” – which he was, in a funny kind of way.
As Jeff walked over to the rope at the back of the stage and picked up a couple of strangely shaped objects, we knew it was show time. Operating a set of different spotlights with just his toes, he turned on one light and suddenly a strange man appeared on the white screen along with a funny looking snail; all puppets made from no more than cardboard and other common materials.
The room quickly filled with fits of laughter when the odd looking snail spotted what he thought was his meal for the day. In fact, it was Jeff’s hair made to look like some sort of hairy rock, and so began the role play of fabulous silliness.
There were snakes in the show too (one which was particularly interested in eating a mouse for lunch), and there was a mouse that enjoyed playing dead. You can guess how that panned out. There was also a strange old man determined to catch a bird as a pet, and a swamp monster! And all of this swamp magic was brought to life by none other than Jeff’s hands and feet controlling pieces of cardboard and other little bits and pieces in front of a spotlight. Now that’s multi-tasking!
Towards the end of the show, we were handed a pair of 3D glasses, and an absolutely magical 3D experience unfolded. My son was mesmerised and screamed with delight as birds, jellyfish, fish and other creatures came to life. It seemed like they were right there, within arms reach.
What a wonderful experience for children to enjoy, to show them how simple materials, sounds, music and a bit of imagination can be used to make something so sensational.
If you’re looking for something to do with the kids these school holidays, I’d highly recommend seeing Swamp Juice at the Ipswich Art Gallery. And it’s not just for the kids, you’ll find yourself laughing along too!
d’Arcy Doyle Place, Nicholas Street (Between Limestone and Brisbane Sts), Ipswich CBD
Dates: Tuesday 20 March to Saturday 9 April 2016 (No show Monday 4 April)
Performance: Two shows daily
Duration: 45 minutes
Recommended: All ages
Cost: $7 per ticket. Adults at kids’ prices. Free for under-twos not occupying a seat.
Bookings: Essential. Book now.