I must first admit that I am a bit of a neophyte when it comes to reviewing children’s theatre, and I can safely say that I completely lucked-out with my first assignment after seeing Dr. Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and His Singing Tiger at Assembly’s Bosco Theatre Tent.
I imagine the ultimate children’s show for my own kids to be smart, interactive, and never underselling how observant and smart children are; they don’t miss a trick. And Dr. Brown gives you everything – physical comedy, clever gags, interaction with the audience, music, and smart, joyful acting. Phil Burgers’ reputation, from what I gather, is built more on extreme physical theatre and evidently some 18+ only humour, but watching Dr. Brown and His Singing Tiger I would never have known. His skills transfer beautifully to a younger audience and his deadpan face and clarity of physical comedy never leaves you lost or confused as to what’s going on or where the show is going.
This duo work together as two halves of the perfect comedic team as we’re taken through Dr. Brown’s daily regime, from breakfast to bedtime, with some unexpected turns in between. Burgers is a master of the art of doing nothing, his facial expressions revealing very little but his eyes and body saying everything, the epitome of brilliant physical comedy. Dr. Brown utters not a word during the show (with the exception of a few nonsense words from the Dr. Brown/Singing Tiger lexicon) and Stuart Bowden as The Singing Tiger is delightful, deft, and light of touch as the humble narrator and human soundtrack for the action, ably accompanying himself on ukulele from start to finish. It’s a joy to see these two comedians take simple tasks, like putting on boots or riding a bicycle, and turning them into comic gold, using the children in the audience as helpers more often than not, much the audience’s delight and I’m sure to a few parents’ trepidation!
This show is an extravaganza of madcap, clever, chaotic clowning that keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what they’ll possibly come up with next. Not only talented clowns, Burgers and Bowden keep the pace clipping along for the 50 minute show and never miss a beat, even when it’s improvising with the audience or deftly guiding a tent full of children from their vocally expressed preoccupation with the fact that Mr. Brown is wearing two hats, to moving onto the next gag.
The show is, of course, for children, and with the cacophony outside the tent before we were seated I, the children’s theatre novice, wondered what I had gotten myself into, but there was nary a peep after the show kicked off, with almost every child sitting in rapt attention and wonder, riveted to the antics onstage. I sat there with mu own big smile on my face and found myself craning my neck along with every child in the audience in order not to miss a beat of the action. There are even a few ‘He’s behind you!’ panto moments to revel in, much to the delight of the kiddies and adults alike.
I’m not entirely sure what children’s theatre is supposed to be, but if this show is any indication of what’s out there for families, make the journey early to catch this show before it’s completely sold out. Not only will your children love you for it but you’ll laugh, clap, and giggle nonstop, and, I would venture a guess, sport a great big grin on your face for hours afterwards.
An unassuming chap in a tiger-striped onesie plucks a ukelele. On the corner of the stage, a giant laundry bag is moving. From its depths emerges a pink woolly hat then safety goggles and a bushy beard. Jacket, tie, then very short white shorts and muscular legs. In socks. This, the tiger establishes through the medium of plaintive song, is Dr Brown.
Dr Brown does not speak. Neither is he a real doctor. The tiger communicates with him and the audience by asking ukelele-accompanied questions to which he grunts, gesticulates or points at a drawing. Somehow, together, we get through.
When it’s time for breakfast, Dr Brown eats his banana with a knife and fork and adds pepper to his tea. Putting on his boots requires the help of around 20 kids from the audience, in a reverse Enormous Turnip manoeuvre. At one point he rides a tiny child’s bicycle, and attempts a potentially terrifying stunt. As a game dad from the front row joins in an improvised musical number, the tiger also reveals some surprising break dancing moves.
As well as captivating children (who have to be prevented from following Dr Brown when he runs out of the tent) this show has already become a cult among kooky 20-somethings. It could easily fill a larger venue, at a 10pm slot, with girls in vintage dresses and boys in tight brown trousers fighting to lie down on the stage and be ridden over on a tiny plastic trike.
At the end, after the tiger has serenaded Dr Brown back into his laundry bag, they are outside to high-five the audience as we leave. I thanked the good doctor for a hugely entertaining 50 minutes, and told the tiger that the show was grrrrrrrrrreat.
Dr Brown shows that kids comedy has a home at NZ International Comedy Festival.
This show follows a day in the life of the anarchic Dr Brown whilst being serenaded by his singing tiger. Dr Brown is a clown but looks more like a slightly unhinged character from a Wes Anderson movie.
This one hour kids special features plenty of audience participation and physical comedy with a couple of stage invasions thrown in. Silliness is the order of the day for this unique and inventive show. Dr Brown is entirely silent throughout but his slap stick antics keep the kids enthralled and lots of giggles ensue.
Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown & His Singing Tiger is the perfect hour of family fun with the kind of absurdity that your kids will love!
If you feel a little too grown up for this then you can check out his adult show Doctor Brown in Befrdfgth also on this week.
Joined on stage by his singing tiger (Stuart Bowden) who helps to translate Dr Brown's silence, the focus here is much more on being silly.
We join Dr Brown as he goes through his daily chores from breakfast through to riding his bike, his favourite thing to do. Each sketch is so wonderfully silly and executed with such great timing it has the audience of young and old in stitches. Stuart Bowden does an excellent job of softening what could be quite a scarily bearded man with his ukulele and constant singing.
One of the best elements of the piece is of course the audience interaction. He likes to pick on the dads and gets them to mess around on stage which delights the children. At one point he invites all the children in the theatre to help him put on his Wellington boots. The kids crowded onto the stage in glorious anarchy; it was great to see so many children involved with the performance.
The climax of the show involves the long awaited bike ride. Dr Brown decides he wants to do a stunt over a very tiny ramp. Again he invites all the children on stage to lie down in a line as he tries to jump over them all. Before we know it there are twenty or so children lying down on the stage heading right out the door. Just like his adult show the whole audience are a part of the game, and the ridiculously silly pay off at the end of the stunt completes the play.
It's so very inspiring to have a successful performer at the fringe so dedicated to such a simple and joyful thing. Both his adult and his children's shows are a monument to the importance of being silly. Whether you are a child who embraces that worthwhile virtue, or an adult who has long forgotten it, Dr Brown is reminding us all of its joyful importance.
Dr Brown, Brown, Brown, Brown, Brown and his Singing Tiger is a madcap physical comedy tailored especially for kids but can quite easily be enjoyed by adults too. This almost-hour long show is narrated by a ukulele-playing dancing tiger who takes us in to the silly and absurd world of Dr Brown.
After making his appearance on stage in the most comical way possible, it quickly becomes apparent that the goggle-wearing Dr Brown does not speak and so it is up to the Singing Tiger (played wonderfully by Stuart Bowden) to steer Dr Brown – and the audience – in the right direction. The task at hand? Get Dr Brown from breakfast to bedtime.
This highly interactive and action-packed show is full of funny gags, silly antics and good old slapstick. It has everything kids enjoy and love to laugh at like flying spoons, funny faces and eating “poo”. Phil Burgers, the man behind Dr Brown easily forges a connection with the kids; he knows exactly what buttons to push to spark a positive reaction and response from them.
Dr Brown, Brown, Brown, Brown, Brown and his Singing Tiger is a fun adventure and delightful treat for the whole family. This comedic duo are accomplished entertainers so parents don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing along too but more importantly, be prepared to let your kids partake in the fun! (Someone’s got to help Dr Brown put on his boots.)
Fifty minutes fly by as Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and His Singing Tiger draw on many theatrical sources to tell the story of a day in the life of the eponymous Dr Brown. An otherwise normal day becomes an absurd musical journey, as the tiger turns each moment into a conversation guided by the strumming of his ukulele.
The show conjures bellows and delighted howls from a packed tent of both adults and children alike. As the roars of laughter bounce around the space, the producers and performers can be safe in the knowledge that they’ve achieved exactly what they set out to do - that tricky task of simultaneously entertaining children and those hard-to-please grown-ups.
Thriving on the energy of their audience, the duo lure people onto the stage at various points, with hilarious consequences. They seem especially delighted by the moments in which the unpredictability of a tent full of fired-up children takes over. At one point the small army of under-tens decide to sail the show themselves, temporarily redirecting its course. Unfazed, the singing tiger and the loveably ridiculous giant child Dr Brown expertly guide proceedings back to their intended position.
The humour centres around observations of the everyday, exaggerated for the benefit of the young audience. While silly, they retain sufficient adult and knowing humour to entertain the seated auditorium, with the biggest laughs coming from the moments that hold universal appeal: comic reminders of the things that often go wrong and the things that we secretly enjoy going a little awry.
Two small children chased me out of the venue into the delightful courtyard space within George Square, having been nudged by parents who had clearly spotted my press pass. Beaming and breathless, they exclaimed their delight and how much they wanted to see it again; the show had worked its magic. If you’re looking for a reason to take your children to a show this year, then here it is. You and your offspring will find this one equally entertaining, albeit for slightly different reasons.
I'm not too sure what my 5-year-old Mia made of Dr Brown at first, an odd-looking man wearing white tennis shorts, a suit jacket, shirt and tie, woolly hat and safety goggles. He was a fruity fright.
She fell in love with his Singing Tiger sidekick straightaway as he serenaded and joked with the kids (and big kids) before the show started. But Dr Brown? Let's just say it took a while. For starters, he emerged from a tatty nylon storage bag (his "house"), that had been on stage all along yet hadn't moved a bit. Then there was the fact the crazy doctor (real name Philip Burgers, of Los Angeles) doesn't talk, apart from gibberish while playing tennis with a dad from the audience.
But when he started catching a goopy nutella sandwich on his face, breaking into bouts of furious bum shaking and pretending to eat whole chairs, Mia beamed, so excited she didn't know whether to stand up or sit down. She also joined three mass stage invasions to help Dr Brown do things like don his gumboots.
And if you think this sounds madcap, then you have to wonder what Dr Brown's strictly adults-only mime-cum-surreal slapstick show that he also performs at the comedy festival is like. The Singing Tiger (Stuart Bowden) is a star in his own right, as he drives the show along with meandering, whimsical tunes.
The pair even include subtle life lessons, like breakfasting well and cleaning up after yourself. Not that the kids noticed; they just wanted the doctor to eat more poo (which looked suspiciously like nutella) out of a baby's nappy. And so did I, which is why it's a clever show that's a hoot for kids, big and small.
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Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and his Singing Tiger is a carefully crafted show designed to entertain adults and kids alike. While most kids' shows go for easy farting laughs, the jokes here are carefully constructed with elements of surprise to keep the kids squealing and yelling on cue, and adults grinning all the way through.
Combining elements of physical comedy, gibberish, breaking the fourth wall, and singing, Dr Brown x5 (Philip Burgers) and his Singing Tiger (Stuart Bowden) take us on a journey through a life in the day of a doctor which challenges all children's expectations.
Never patronising or too adult for kids to understand, what really stands out for me is the original way they bring out the ‘what if?' of a child's world.
Not to be missed are the moments when Dr Brown eats a chair, the audience eats poo and everyone has to shut their eyes.
Philip Burger trained at the Ecole Phillippe Gaulier which has also trained Sacha Baron Cohen and Emma Thompson. Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and his Singing Tiger is the fifth incarnation of the character who has entertained audiences around the world since 2009.
Philip Burger was one of the Sun's Top Ten Performers in 2010 and his show Becaves was nominated at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe for a Total Theatre Award. Stuart Bowden has also won multiple awards including the Underbelly Edinburgh Award at the Adelaide Fringe.
This show, which won Best Presentation for Children at the Adelaide Fringe 2012, is on this Wednesday 1 to Sunday 5 May, at 9.30am and 11.30am. As with adult shows, avoid the front row if you don't want to be the target for a joke.
You can also see Dr Brown typo disaster (that is Dr Brown Befrdfgth) in an adult show Wed 1-Sat 4 May, 7pm.