Pros: A masterclass in the use of the dressing-up box via some very amusing characters.
Cons: The original message has been lost somewhere along the way, resulting in some random lines.
Lightbox Theatre brings to life forgotten or untold stories. This one was originally an early 20th century play by Maurice Maeterlinck. At just over one hour, the length is about right; any longer and attention spans, which were starting to wander, would have strayed completely.
The Blue Bird opens with a little boy, Tyltyl, playing with his toy cat and toy dog. He is visited by a fairy and sent on a quest to find the blue bird of happiness. After a little hesitation he embarks on his mission accompanied by the cat and dog who have been brought to life, and clutching a magic diamond provided by the fairy. The diamond can allow mute objects to talk or make them silent again, and possibly does some other things which I am afraid were lost on me. The younger audience members appeared to understand and accept what was going on though.
The mission takes Tyltyl to various magical kingdoms. He encounters the ‘Luxuries’ who tempt him with pies (that would have been the end of my questing), the Land of Memory where his dead grandparents try to persuade him to linger longer than he should, and another place where Nature, in the form of talking trees and animals, confronts Tyltyl. They try to take revenge on humanity for all of the chopping down and eating of their relatives by attacking him. Assisted by the overenthusiastic dog and hampered by the cat, Tyltyl manages to overcome all obstacles, but never does find the elusive blue bird until he arrives back in bed and wakes up.
Tyltyl is played by Jenni MacKenzie Jones throughout; every other character — and there are quite a few of them — is shared by Ashley Alymann, David Fairs and Siu-see Hung. Differentiated by means of hats, voice and movement, the characters are all very distinct and incredibly well done. Some of the changes were so rapid I don’t know how they managed to remember which one they were playing at any given time. It was a masterclass in how to use the contents of a dressing-up box and also included some real over-the-top caricatures which were great fun. The cast looked like they were enjoying themselves.
On occasion I was a bit confused as to what was going on — but it wasn’t aimed at me, and I noticed that the children seemed to be engaged. There were audible gasps and giggles, and one very small chap was happy to voice his concerns for all to share. Had I been accompanied by any of my seven-year-old acquaintances we probably would have discussed the character and behaviour of the cat and dog, and also the importance of remembering those who have passed away. I do think that Maeterlinck’s lesson about finding happiness in simple things and seeing the extraordinary in our everyday life was lost somewhere along the way. Instead, we have been shown how to have a great time with a few props and a bit of imagination.
Director: Anna Marsland
Author: Maurice Maeterlinck
Adapted by: Emma Faulkner and Anna Marsland
Designer: Sammy Dowson
Composition/Sound: Odinn Orn Hilmarsson
Producer: Lightbox Theatre
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run at the New Wimbledon Studio but has other dates at various venues across London.
Booking Link: http://lightboxtheatre.co.uk/upcoming/the-blue-bird