In my office – the front room of my Petersham art deco apartment – stands to attention the fading gilt spines of my collection of Little Golden Books. Though a self-proclaimed intellectual (that sounds pretty bad doesn’t it) who collects art and plays and literary crititicsm and recently doilies, teacups and Australian literature, I am not unlike others of my generation who are deeply nostalgic for their childhood. I collect classic stories of puppies and kittens and tug boats and rogue trains. Within the pages are the foggy-coloured illustrations that despict adventure, challenge and acts of kindness and bravery which have left a deep and indelible pattern on my heart and who I am. These are the stories that helped me make sense of the world … and every now and then I tumble into bed for some golden book advice or reassurance.

It is this reason why I love children’s theatre. There is something deeply philosophical about the stories – with the added bonus of high action, intense adventure and innovative staging that makes me buzz with anticipation. And it is why, for me, Drop Bear Theatre’s production of Caleb Lewis’ Aleksander and the Robot Maid has been such an awaited new-writing event.

It was in February last year when I attended a self-initiated launch of Drop bear Theatre at Fraser Studios and have since followed them on several occasions – curating their first show devised from Mem Fox’s The Magic Hat for the Sydney Fringe, and also reading their application for Queen Street Studio’s residency and then for the Seymour Centre’s inaugural Reginald Season. I have been following their development and work – and enthralled by the energy and drive to produce new, exciting, quality theatre for children/youth.

So it is no surprise they enlisted the help of multi-award winning playwright Caleb Lewis to write them a show. For those who know Caleb’s writing – masculine, intense, poetic and confronting – a trip to see a children’s play might be a little disconcerting. But if you think about Children’s theatre as a lesser or naieve art-form, you are doing yourself a great disservice… and you’re sure to miss out on a profound and touching experience.

Indeed it could appear that in an age of i-Phone apps for children, intensely frowning DragonballZ characters and fast-paced, fast-food, synthetic, scheduled lifestyle – that a play is a quaint and old fashioned thing. Perhaps it is. And that’s a good thing… to slow down, turn off, think, watch, wait…

And these ideas are very present in Lewis’ play.

Set in Robotika in Russia during the industrial Revolution with a SteamPunk aesthetic (for those who don’t know what that is – check it out here), this is a play as much about love, the joys’n’sorrows of work, bravery and slavery as it is about robots, adventures and friendship.

For those curious about Jason Blake’s response to the play – you can find it here – and which may be of value considering her does have 2 young children… but I find his reading of the production overly terse.

My response is very different. A part of every good children’s show is the reaction of the people that count – and that’s not the reviewers but the young spectators. They know story – by gosh do children know a good story – they tell them, they recite them, they invent them, they beg for them. They refuse sleep, they are accused of being liars in their passionate pursuit of story. They feed off story. They love characters, they love villains and pretty women and brave heroes. And this is because they are constantly battling their natural enemy – boredom. And they will tell you when they are bored. They’ll tell you when they are scared… and they will laugh out loud in the most body-shuddering, generous way… so the question is, not what do the press think of this – but what do the kids think?

And the kids I spoke to thought it was really cool.

And what’s not to love? Aleksander, despite being an orphan takes on the evil Aunt Lychkova and Mr Whipp and wins, overthrows an evil empire, emancipates his best friend, Daisy and pursues his dreams.

In addition to this Drop Bear Theatre has arranged a robot making class after the show in the Sound Lounge so that the young people can build their own cardboard robot… or design their own robot postcard – and frankly , who doesn’t love some post-show craft?

Ali Gordon’s direction is sharp, bright, fun. She has handled the space and demands of the show beautifully – assisted by a beautiful designs by Marin Curach and by Tomy K C Leung and Lighting Design by Sophie Kurylowicz and composition by Scott Gillespie. The characters are clear and bold -and yes for something as sophisticated as Caleb Lewis’ SteamPunk Robotika the characters have to be that bold. the cast – Andrew Brackman as Mr Whipp slouches and scowls his discontent about the stage, whilst the sweet acid dripping from the lips of Margot Politis as Aunt Lychkova is mesmerizing and viscous. Tim Kurylowicz’s Aleksander is bright-eyed and boisterous and Sarah Lockwood’s Miss Katarina is delightfully ditzy (and brilliantly delivers a corker of a line in the throws of slumber- “Oh… Mr Chehkov!” to which one young punter mused “Hmm, Chehkov!”)… it’s a well-directed, beautifully performed production and one that is sure to gather momentum and linger in the minds and hearts of young people who eventually turn into our society.

And the message is profound and must be heard – that life is more than work, and that in the end love (friendship) conquers all.

And for me, and my dear friend as we sat in the audience, I felt a shiver tingle across my skin and a tear form in my eye as we watched as one friend saved another and were reminded that not everything is about ambition, work, lifestyle… and sometimes it takes a play like Aleksander and the Robot Maid – a (morality tale) wolf in a (kid show) sheep’s clothing , to remind us of that.

I urge you to go… I loved it.

Four Shows to go:
Friday 8th July 10am & 7pm
Saturday 9th July 10am & 2pm
More information: