Author, Julia Donaldson is somewhat of a rockstar in our household. Those rhyming words are so helpful for beginners learning to read, using anticipation and excitement to catch the rhythm and rhyme.

We’ve always loved The Gruffalo as one of our favourite bedtime stories.  Room on the Broom – another classic. And the delightful accompanying illustrations by Axel Scheffler. We’ve only recently gotten into The Snail and the Whale – with very good reason.   The brilliant stage adaption of this gorgeous tale is showing these school holidays at the Melbourne Arts Centre, June 29 – July 10. There’s still a few days to catch the play, and here’s why it has been one of our major highlights of the holidays.

It’s Art and Culture month at MamaMag – perfect timing really in the winter slosh, to stay indoors and catch a little theatre! Melbourne is bubbling with talents of the Arts. And it is such a wonderful thing to share with your children, a love and passion for the arts is a wonderful gift.

From start to finish, the UK company Tall Stories brought a delightful adaption of this gorgeous story to life. My three-and-a-half year old daughter was hooked and engaged right from the beginning as one of the main characters – the ambitious and adventure-seeking daughter, ran through the audience, hiding from her father in the notorious bedtime avoidance dance! The kids delightfully played along as the Dad asked if anyone had seen his daughter. Laughter, cackles, pointing, gleeful screams of delight. The scene and tone was set.

There are only three actors that weave the 55-minute performance together. In an act of clever weaving and time lapsing, the audience is taken on a lively and interactive journey, an adventure as big as a child’s imagination and whale’s tail. Even a snail can dream big and see the world! It’s little wonder that The Snail and the Whale is Julia Donaldson’s favourite.

All music and sound effects are created live on stage, with the narrator – who is an older version of the young daughter, recalling the story from when she was a child. She comes in and out of the story at poignant moments and plays the electric viola and an effects pedal. It’s really quite incredible that just three actors engage in the performance. The father is warm, funny, a little aloof and ultimately very lovable. His couragous and determined daughter has him wrapt around her little finger. Their relationship is playful and loving and makes one reminisce about Dad throwing you high high above his shoulders and laughing in pure joy and delight.

There is a bit of audience participation, in the form of singing that was magic to be a part of. And another part which the kids particularly liked, as water guns shot a little water into the audience! It’s this interactive nature that captivates the children, along with the funny moments and giggles along the way. The recommendation is for ages 4+ and it was certainly perfect for Miss 3.5. We noticed a few members of the audience had water and small snacks ready for the kids if they got a little hangry! Especially for the even younger audience members who inevitably find sitting still for an hour a bit of a challenge.

Overall, it really was a magic experience and we have been singing the following lines ever since:

“Shimmering ice and coral caves, shooting stars and ENORMOUS waves!!”

And the message that we should nurture the adventurous spirit within our children and dream big – even a little snail can do something remarkable and unimaginable. Dream big. See the world through the lens of our children and never forget the power of imagination.

WHEN: 29 June – 10 July. 10am and 12.30 performance

WHERE: Melbourne Arts Centre

HOW MUCH: Tickets from $30

DURATION: 55 minutes