Pros: This interpretation of Nick Butterworth’s Percy The Park Keeper is exactly how I imagined the character would be. Clever puppetry breathes life into his woodland friends and the immersive staging is a fantastic set for little ones to get involved in the story.
Cons: None really – this production is perfectly pitched and everyone certainly enjoyed it. The small audience size might make it difficult to get a ticket.
If you live within striking distance of the Discover Children’s Story Centre and you have children seven years or younger, you should most definitely pay a visit if you haven’t already. A stone’s throw from Queen Elizabeth Park, it is well connected to Stratford’s public transport and there are a handful of parking spaces at the back of the building so it is very accessible from just about anywhere in London. Inside you’ll find a wonderful story trail, a fabulous interactive garden, temporary exhibitions and things to make and do, as well as the performance space where One Snowy Night is showing. Everything is included in the ticket price which at just £27.50 for a family of four (under 2s are free) makes for a busy and affordable day out.
So we arrived just in the nick of time to enter the performance space, cleverly transformed into Percy’s park, complete with trees, grass, a path and fallen leaves. We sat on the grass and met Bob, on his first day on the job, fixing a park bench. Percy then arrived and the laughs began as we were invited in to Percy’s warm and cosy hut watching the sun go down. The children all sat on Percy’s carpet as he made cocoa and got ready for bed. It was a very chilly night so we were not the only visitors to the hut – all of Percy’s woodland friends wanted to come into the warm space to escape the snow. Soon the bed was full and Percy adopted some hilarious positions to try and catch his forty winks!
I loved Stephen Harper as Percy – he was just as I always imagined this character to be. Gentle, humorous and welcoming, Harper captured the essence of Percy to perfection. Sam Dutton played all the other characters, the bumbling Bob always getting it wrong was a perfect foil to Percy’s knowing ways. Dutton’s most masterful performances came with the woodland characters, all brought to life with fabulously designed puppets. Dutton managed to bring individual personalities, voices and mannerisms to all of the beautiful puppets, ducking on and off set seamlessly (and sometimes invisibly) to introduce the next visitor. My favourite performance was almost certainly the squirrel – the swift, acrobatic antics of this Spanish speaking chap was magical. My daughter, though, was smitten with the wily fox, determined to be introduced to his dinner in the cosy bed.
I loved this production as did my daughter. I was so impressed not only with Harper and Dutton’s performances, but also the fabulous set which created a truly immersive theatre experience for the young children. Percy and Bob spoke directly with the audience and maintained an undisturbed order for some very excitable kids! There was lots of laughter, lots of banter and lots of fun in this production. If you can, be sure to get a ticket and make a day of it and spending some time at the Discover Children’s Story Centre before or after the performance will only add to the fun of the evening.
Director: Sally Goldsworthy
Producer: Eleanor Butler
Designer: Cathy Wren
Production Manager: David Salter
Composer: Jon Owen
Lighting Design: Jack Knowles
Puppet designer / maker: Sam Wyer
Performer / puppeteer: Sam Dutton
Booking until: 24 December 2014
Box office: 020 8536 5555
Booking link: https://www.gammabookings.com/discover/