The African Elephant of My Heart: Dance Extravaganza kids’ show at the Adelaide Fringe – Review
by Carla Caruso
★★★★ 4 Stars for animal-tastic fun for juniors
Ever wondered what your ‘animal spirit guide’ might be? While it sounds a bit Hollywood, the concept actually stems from a Native American tradition.
‘Totem animals’ are said to be animal guides that come in and out of our lives, depending on the direction we’re headed in and the tasks we need to complete along the journey.
This idea is tackled in the Fringe dance extravaganza, The African Elephant of My Heart, in Hindmarsh. Yup, the Fringe isn’t just confined to the city! For easy parking and a quirky, vibe-y sort of venue, Holden Street Theatres (inside a nineteenth-century church) is just the ticket.
And this kids’ show is independent theatre as it should be, with a pared-back set and props and a focus on music, dance and stirring kids’ imaginations.
The story – enacted by a trio of performers – follows a girl who’s recovering in hospital when she’s visited by an African elephant ‘guide’. He takes her and the audience to a magical jungle river to dance. Kids are encouraged to move to the African rhythms of the Mbira and become the characters and landscape. This helps Little Jess to see all her other animals and learn that she can dance again.
The tale is actually inspired by the life of London writer, actor and director Jessica Clements, who travels the globe with her book, The Elephant of My Heart, as a kids’ show.
“I had a wonderful childhood,” Jessica says on her Goodreads page. “My dad’s job took us around the world. We spent time in Gibraltar, Australia, and Nigeria. It was in Australia, though, that my life changed completely. I was nine years old when I had a brain hemorrhage and hydrocephalus.
Physically, I recovered quickly but emotionally was quite different. That was until I was introduced in a visualisation to an elephant. He took me on the most amazing journey to meet all my other animals. They are a snake, a dragonfly, a phoenix, its fleas [and] a goldfish, and my elephant also changed into a black panther.
They taught me that the scars that crisscross my head can be seen in a different more positive light as now they are sutured with a black panther’s whisker and held by a dragonfly.”
“Mindfulness” is very much a buzzword right now, and at the show’s end, Jess encourages the kids and adults alike to find the ‘animals of their hearts’ in a short inner journey.
Can’t say I’ve ever shared the stage with performers before, pretending to be such animals as a gorilla and a turtle. It was fun to let go and embrace the experience. (And, for the record, I found my inner koala.)
CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS
For more information, please visit the Adelaide Fringe website.
What: The African Elephant of My Heart: Dance Extravaganza kids’ show
When: Remaining shows Saturday 14 & Sunday 15 March 2020 | 12.30pm
Where: The Studio – Holden Street Theatres | 34 Holden Street, Hindmarsh
Who: Earthy, imaginative, animal-loving families – recommended for kids aged 4 to 10
All photos by Carla Caruso for Play & Go Adelaide (unless specified)
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