The Luck Child, a children’s show presented as part of the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and performed by one half of the Umbilical Brothers David Collins and directed by Jonathan Biggins, is entertaining at parts but ultimately falls short.
The piece tells the very familiar story of an evil king, a prophecy and a new born baby destined for the throne. Through storytelling, slapstick and mime Collins takes us on a journey across a kingdom and through the life of the destined Luck Child, Lucky, to his fate. The piece is carried by Collins’ incredibly physical performance, playing over a dozen characters through the piece from an elderly wizard, a baboon to a ghostly ferryman with seamless transformations through his physicality and voice.
It is clear the story is subservient to the physical sequences Collins wished to perform, with the plot meandering between locations for their benefit. Sequences from a wizard brewing a potion to a circus performance involving a baboon being shot from a cannon and a trapeze performance created by nothing but his hands allow Collins to showcase the skills he’s perfected over his years of physical performance. When these finish however we are left with stilted and almost awkward scenes of dialogue between anything from two to four characters all performed by Collins. While these occasionally had a comedic gem they were at points almost inaudible, and much of the time I was just waiting for his next physical sequence to begin.
Children’s theatre is a difficult thing to create. Too simple a story and it leaves both children and adults feeling patronised and uncaring to what’s being shown on stage, too complex and it can leave its younger audience members completely baffled by what’s happening on stage. The latter of these became a problem through the show as Collins went through sequences of incredibly detailed mime, which while engrossing if you understood what was going on left many children baffled as they expressed quite vocally in the seats around me.
If you’re looking for a show to take younger children to which avoids the usual hallmarks of children’s theatre, wall to wall poo and fart gags, The Luck Child is for you. However if you’re looking for a more engrossing piece of theatre to take your children too I would look elsewhere. Collins clowning while talented needs to be rooted in a stronger story to allow it to have reached its full potential.
The Luck Child
29 March – 20 April
The Famous Spiegeltent at Federation Square