Adapted from A.A Milne’s original stories by Janet Allard
“A play that puts a smile on everyone’s face”
Winnie the Pooh has charmed the hearts of generations of children, establishing it as a timeless classic. Simple and benevolent stories with memorable characters have become a staple in American culture. As an avid Winnie the Pooh fan since birth, I was delighted to have the opportunity to revisit the familiar warmth of my childhood. There is a picture of me as a baby surrounded by a dozen Winnie the Pooh stuffed bears. When I was three years old, I really wanted to be Tigger for Halloween. My mom was able to find a onesie with a hood that I could go trick or treating in. I wore that Tigger costume until it fell apart and my mom could no longer sew it back together. Before I was even born, my parents decorated my nursery with a Winnie the Pooh theme. My beloved baby blanket has Pooh and Piglet sleeping under a crescent moon. So, it’s safe to say that I was excited for the UNCG School of Theatre’s production of Winnie the Pooh’s collection of stories.
Upon my arrival at the Sprinkle Theater, I found a cozy private set, minimally decorated yet full of life, reminding me of my time spent daydreaming of exploring the Hundred Acre Wood. What fascinated me the most was the diverse audience. There were people of all ages eagerly waiting for the show to begin. There were small children, of course, as Winnie the Pooh is naturally tailored toward a young audience, but there were adults as well. Older people by themselves, families with grown kids, couples, college students and my mom and me. The stories of A.A. Milne are permanently embedded within the collective nostalgia of our world. Adults reliving their childhood, including myself, found comfort and laughter watching the play.
Uniquely, the production didn’t spoon-feed the characters and stories to the audience. In general, adaptations of cartoons and children’s shows cater to the original design. The costumes would obviously indicate specific characters to help bring the story to life, like giant fluffy ears for Rabbit or large tails for Kanga and Roo. However, this production went in a direction that created a distinct adaptation to a classic world. Each character wore clothes that vaguely represented the animals of Hundred Acre Wood. Through actions and dialogue, the audience discovered the personalities of each character. The actors didn’t wear silly wigs or exaggerated makeup, but the magic was still alive. The actor that played Rabbit was tall with braids that resembled large bunny ears. While walking around, his posture and movements resembled the well-known character. He hopped and perched on logs with the persona of a rabbit. Winnie the Pooh’s jubilant smile and curiosity embodied the spirit of the character without resembling a fuzzy stuffed bear. Eeyore didn’t need to walk on all fours like a real donkey to demonstrate his gloomy trudge or woe-is-me nature. We didn’t need to see a twirly pink tail to recognize Piglet’s timid character or feathers to see Owl’s stern stature. Kanga and Roo didn’t need large tails to demonstrate their endearing bond.
The set is an integral part of any play, creating the world for the audience, however, the minimalist production is what made the play so special. We had to use our imagination to fill in the little details. Imagination and adventure are key themes in Winnie the Pooh stories and this set encouraged the audience to be a part of the play. There was only a backdrop and several logs that were used throughout the play, but it felt like the cast presented an entire world in front of our eyes, especially the scene where Pooh is floating with a red balloon to acquire some “hunny.” There were no tall trees or sounds of breezes but through the actions, we could see Pooh being lifted into the air and twirling all around. The most important part about the stories of One Hundred Acre Woods is that it is through the eyes of Christopher Robin’s imagination. Instead of giving us the details, this production encouraged everyone, especially the younger audience to use their own imagination, a genuine homage to A.A. Milne’s world.
One of the most impressive aspects of this play was the outstanding humor. The side comments made by characters as well as their animated expressions proved to be extremely comical. Of course, each character had their unique way of behaving, but all the characters made jokes and used physical comedy to delight the audience. If the production had been made for a larger audience, we might have not felt as connected with the characters and their lively personalities. Every character was humorous in their own way, but the actor that played Eeyore was hysterical. The facial expressions, hunched shoulders, and aura of sorrow got great laughs. They really brought the spirit of Eeyore alive, well, as alive as Eeyore can be.
As an avid Tigger fan, as were some of the children in the audience who showed up in Tigger costumes, I was partially confused as to why his character wasn’t in this production. Upon further research, I discovered that Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood, written in 1926, did not become public domain until Jan. 24, 2022. Tigger wasn’t introduced in Pooh’s World until the story “The House at Pooh Corner,” written in 1928. This story is still under copyright and that’s why we couldn’t enjoy Tigger’s goofiness. Despite this minor detail, it was an amusing cast of characters.
The play runs over several Saturdays with showings at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. After this article is published, there will be two more showings each on Feb. 18 and 25. After its time at UNCG’s Sprinkle Theater, the production will be touring various elementary schools in North Carolina from March 1 to April 25.
I encourage you to see this play while you can. In a world full of technology and distractions, you will spend an hour forgetting about the struggles of everyday life and have a delightful time with your friends in The Hundred Acre Wood.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment, featured
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