Now, the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia has brought over director-designer Jim Morrow’s acclaimed stage version as part of a trio of Carle favourites, including Little Cloud and The Mixed-Up Chameleon. Morrow’s is a faithful yet imaginative reworking, boasting a simple storyboard set that replicates beautifully the rich colours of the original illustrations and ‘black light’ puppets that float weightlessly across the stage, accompanied by a jaunty jazz score.
At the start of the show, we’re told this is a ‘no shushing’ performance, with young theatregoers encouraged to join in whenever they know the story – which is always. It makes for a nice, relaxed atmosphere but means the American narration is lost at times and with it, audience attention. I suspect the show will work better in a smaller theatre than the Rose, with fewer children but everyone closer to the action.
Carle’s narratives are as linear as the hungry caterpillar himself and there are moments when this feels more like watching animation than live performance. That said, Morrow’s puppet creatures move along like magic even when the story doesn’t and fans of the book will leave with their fond memories safely but subtly enhanced.