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REVIEW: The Velveteen Rabbit
REVIEW: The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit is an antidote the post-Christmas malaise that sometimes strikes when the temperature rises and the school holidays stretch out for weeks ahead.

Shiny new toys delivered in December are enticing - for a bit.

But in the background, waiting patiently, is often a soft toy which isn't the latest, fastest, most sophisticated plaything. This teddy bear or fluffy dog doesn't require batteries and is ever ready for a cuddle.

Margery Williams' children's book, written in 1922, is about such a toy; a floppy-eared toy stuffed with sawdust and without legs.

The bunny wants to be real and, with fellow nursery toys, learns that being loved for a long, long time, until your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, is the path to becoming real.

Spare Parts first performed The Velveteen Rabbit in 2005, inspired by director Philip Mitchell's childhood affinity with the book.

The charm of Spare Parts' production is not in the puppet machinations. The toys - a plastic soldier, bossy bulldozers, stuffed animals - play themselves with actors to move them around just as children do when entering the world of make-believe. A marionette fairy delivers magic along the way.

We can peer into the nursery toys' lives through a set that resembles a diorama or a dollhouse - a toy in itself - with sliding doors and secret envelopes.

Puppeteer-actors Bec Bradley, Michael Barlow and St John Cowcher don cheeky wallpaper-patterned romper suits to both blend into the domestic background and accentuate the olden-days drama.

The Velveteen Rabbit is set in a time darkened by scarlet fever and high child mortality. Such concepts are from another world and the quaintness of the set design accentuates that distance.

The Spare Parts team have balanced playful action, light-hearted dialogue and shades of pathos for a show that will delight the family this summer.

Spare Parts' productions of The Velveteen Rabbit over many years to thousands of children render this puppet show like the splendid bunny itself.

"When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real."

And so it is with this long-loved production.