Two Oompa- Loompas on the run

Two Oompa- Loompas on the run

A group of iconic but mysterious characters from children's literature come into their own during a special performance by Kids' Gallery

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In Oompa Loompa!, Max Hui (right) and Caitlin Neuville (left) flee Willy Wonka's factory in search of excitement.
In Oompa Loompa!, Max Hui (right) and Caitlin Neuville (left) flee Willy Wonka's factory in search of excitement.
Photo: Henry Lui
Roald Dahl is a legendary children's author. The British author wanted to satisfy children's boundless curiosity with his own creativity and imagination.

Dahl wrote of witches and flying elevators, talking monkeys and oversized fruit. In one of his classics, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he created the now famous character of Willy Wonka and his magical chocolate factory.

The story of poor Charlie winning a trip to go to Wonka's chocolate factory has been beloved by generations of children worldwide. It has been made into several movies, most recently one starring Johnny Depp as Willie Wonka.

But the story also has other exciting characters. The Oompa- Loompas are Wonka's sincere and hardworking servants. They play an important role in making the story leap off the page - and off the screen. And now off the stage, too.

Young actors at children's arts organisation Kids' Gallery decided to give the Oompa- Loompas all the credit they deserve in a theatre performance appropriately titled Oompa Loompa!.

Our junior reporters went to the play's preview. They spoke to the director and two lead actors. Here's what they learned.

The inspiration

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is an essential part of Roald Dahl's beloved fantasy world for children. The book's imaginative plot and iconic characters leave a deep impression on the mind of every child that reads it.

Oompa- Loompas are little people who come from the jungles of Loompaland, where they lived in tree houses to escape monsters called Snozzwangers and Whangdoodles. They work in Wonka's factory. They are diligent but eerie and mysterious.

That mystery about them attracted Vincent Warren, the director of the play Oompa Loompa!. "You never know what they want to do. They're strange, and a bit mean," he says.

But they add a lot of fun to the story, which Warren loves. To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Kids' Gallery, he came up with the idea of a spin-off, based on a tale of what Ooompa- Loompas would do if Charlie and Willy Wonka weren't around. Left unattended, two Oompa- Loompas decide to embark on a journey to London and explore unseen places.

Mini Yip


Heart-to-heart with the director

The cast started rehearsing and preparing in April. Not only did they put a lot of effort into performance skills, most of the stage props and decorations were also created by the youngsters, Vincent Warren said.

This show is the third time Warren has worked with children. The director says theatre training offers children many new experiences. Also, acting helps to boost their communication skills.

Warren says rehearsals were much easier than for previous shows, because of a bigger budget. But rehearsing with children was still a challenge because they could be quite bouncy and full of energy, he notes. But he never shouted at them, no matter what. "If I had children, I'd definitely encourage them to do drama because it's fun!'' Warren says with a laugh.

Sonia Tsui


Difficulties facing actors

The storyline of Oompa Loompa! focuses on two adventurous - and rebellious - Oompa- Loompas, Algernon and Peep.

Max Hui, 11, plays Algernon, an intelligent and worldly Oompa- Loompa, while Caitlin Neuville, 12, plays Peep, a mummy's girl who follows Algernon, as they flee Wonka's factory, in search of excitement.

The two youngsters said the huge stage and tall staircases were going to be the biggest challenge during the show. The two little Oompa- Loompas say they never expected the props to be so enormous. Only when they started walking up and down the staircases, and climbing the ramp did they realise how big the props around them were.

Another challenging task is the scene where they have to dance in the dark. All the lights are off, except some flashing lights from the candy canes in their hands. The actors have to dance in unison , without crashing into one another in the near-darkness.

The scene where they escape is also difficult, as the young performers need to show their sneakiness at the same time as having a clear, audible conversation.

Nola Yip


Lesson learned

Max Hui, who plays Algernon, says that if any one of the actors fails to perform well, "the whole thing collapses".

Before being selected for the roles, each actor had to go through a series of auditions and preparations to showcase their talents. It was a tough process, but the rewards were well worth it.

Whether actors play a lead or supporting character, they all recognise they are an essential part of a collective effort.

During the preview show, some technical problems surfaced. Though they felt confused, the cast remained calm, and soon everything was OK. The show's success could be attributed to the friendship and strong bonds among performers.

Michelle Si

Young Post's junior reporters club offers students opportunities to join interesting workshops, interview inspiring people and practise quality journalism. If you would like to join us, send your name, age and school to reporters.club@scmp.com now. Put "Junior Reporter Application" in the subject line.

Face Academy, part of the KG Group, offers a wide range of performing courses for young aspiring dancers, actors and singers, aged 8 to 18. To find out more, visit http://www.facepresents.com/

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