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Green sheep kids' theatre production going st -

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ELEANOR HALL: It is box office gold, a play that in its fifth Australian season, still sells out in
every theatre it plays in.

And it is a limited target audience, the Australian theatre production, The Green Sheep, is aimed
at children under four years of age. It has now played to more than 38,000 children both here and
around the world.

And as Nance Haxton reports, the theatre phenomenon shows no sign of losing its appeal.

(Sound of chimes)

NANCE HAXTON: The mystery starts the moment you arrive for The Green Sheep.

Instead of sitting in front of a static stage, at the beginning of this show, the audience is
herded through gates into a small farmyard.

ACTORS: Where is the Green Sheep?

NANCE HAXTON: And the puzzle of finding the Green Sheep begins.

This show based on Mem Fox's book of the same name has become such a success, it's sold out two
overseas tours and is about to start another one.

The show will debut in New York in September, before travelling on to Seattle.

It's become an international phenomenon for Adelaide's Windmill Performing Arts Company, the scale
of which even took its founding director Cate Fowler by surprise.

KATE FOWLER: A lot of people said oh children, little babies, won't sit for 35 minutes. But as you
can see today they do, and consequently people have been fascinated in the work. It looks very
simple and very beautiful, but it's quite complex and as you can see the children follow the
journey of the green sheep. But it's just been a thrilling piece to do.

NANCE HAXTON: The success of The Green Sheep is part of a worldwide trend where small children hold
increasing market power.

KPMG partner George Svinos says The Wiggles started the craze, setting the standard for children's
entertainment more than 10 years ago.

GEORGE SVINOS: The Green Sheep is certainly following in the foot steps of what we've witnessed
with, I think, Wiggles and Bananas. And I guess from that perspective, you could expect them to go
a long way.

NANCE HAXTON: How much of pulling power do children themselves have or is it really the parents who
are choosing the products for their children, or are children also having a part to play in this by
demanding certain things?

GEORGE SVINOS: I think it's both contributing to the outcome that you've suggested because
certainly from an outsider's perspective, I would have sat down and said, "Oh, it's all the
parents," you know, how can they, a one, two or three-year-old tell you what they want.

But in reality, if you're had children of your own and you see how a video or taking them to this
sort of show or giving them that sort of toy immediately mesmerises and occupies them, then
certainly they're voting with their actions.

NANCE HAXTON: The Green Sheep is aimed squarely at the under fours, and has tapped into an
international realisation of the power of theatre for the young, as artistic director Rose Myers
explains.

ROSE MYERS: I think it did surprise people, but now people are just so aware with all the new
contemporary brain imaging, just understanding the level of activity and the way people learn, or
children learn at that age. And just how important a role theatre has to play in all of that.

NANCE HAXTON: That's something actor Ninian Donald can vouch for. He says acting for four years
olds has been his biggest challenge yet.

NINIAN DONALD: There's definitely a thing with babies and small children. They're not going to
stand still or sit still. They will be moving around, they will want to touch things, so it's very
tactile. You have to be on crowd control a little, and hopefully the parents are as well.

NANCE HAXTON: At the end of the show, the children are invited to read the book and learn some of
the instruments they've watched being played.

ACTOR: Here is the near sheep, and here is the far sheep!

NANCE HAXTON: And do they find the Green Sheep?

ACTOR: He's sleeping! Good night Green Sheep!

ELEANOR HALL: And don't they love it. Children at the performance of The Green Sheep, ending that
report from Nance Haxton.