The Snail and the Whale at the Arts Centre Melbourne - Review

Our guest reviewer Kate and her twins Arlo and Macy experienced the latest theatre production currently at the Arts Centre Melbourne until the 10th of July and enjoyed a beautiful story. Here's their review.


The day had finally arrived. Arlo and Macy were going on their first trip to the theatre! Along with many other ‘alternate milestones’, experiencing your first live performance rates pretty highly.  So it was very fortunate that we got to share this momentous occasion with the charming adaption of the award-winning story, The Snail and the Whale at Arts Centre Melbourne.

Walking down the steps into the foyer of the Fairfax Studio we were immediately transported to the docks with fishing nets,  seagulls, ropes, seashells and red and white painted buoys adorning the space.  We even spotted a few sea snails too, much to the delight of Master Arlo!

Once positioned eagerly in our seats, the charming sounds of the viola swept through the theatre and it was at that moment that we were introduced to our narrator and musician, Catriona Stirling. The 55-minute show is told through the eyes of a young woman (Stirling) looking back on her childhood. It is a beautiful story about love, loss and adventure as well as the special bond she had with her seafaring father.


The show begins with the little girl (Amy Tobias) delaying going to bed and hiding from her father (Patrick Bridgman) in amongst the audience members. This certainly set the tone of the morning and had everyone, especially the smallest audience members, giggling, squealing and interacting with the actors. Once back in her bedroom, her father begins to tell a story about a great big, grey-blue humpback whale. However, the story is cut short when her father, who is a sailor, must head off to sea. His daughter longs to go with him and would hitch a ride, like the snail, if she could.

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When the absent father sends his daughter a tape of him reading their story, the stage comes alive.  The bed and surrounding furniture are transformed into various scenes and characters (just like at Grandma's house hiding under her dining table covered with a big blanket!) while the core story is acted out and the snail’s adventure is recreated.  The audience continues to participate throughout the show too; singing, recreating actions (“Be quiet! Don’t wriggle! Sit still! Stay put!”, will be in my head for many days to come), spotting sharks and becoming the class of children who must help to save the whale.  I must mention that it was at this point of the story where audience participation peaked; being squirted and sprayed with water from shooting water guns! Hilarious!


The show was enriched by incredible music and sound effects, all created live on stage by an electric viola with an effects pedal.

In true Macy style, when the show concluded, sitting on the seat (with her feet barely hanging over the edge) joining the crowd in appreciation of the performance with an extended round of applause did not suffice. Miss Macy leaped out of her seat, took to her feet and gave the biggest standing ovation ever seen by a 20 month old audience member with an equally big smile on her face to boot! 

This was a lively theatrical experience suitable for ages 4 and over. Our little ones were far too young to follow the story line, however the amount of movement, light and sound coming from the stage was enough to hold their attention.  Neither of them moved from their seats, became restless or needed to be escorted from the theatre and I think that’s definitely a testament to how engaging the show was.

Although not a direct re-telling of the picture book, Tall Stories have certainly delivered a tremendous page-to-stage adaption of one of our favourites, The Snail and the Whale

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect theatre introduction...

The Snail and The Whale is now showing at the Arts Centre Melbourne until the 10th of July and is recommended for 4 years+. More information, head to their website.