Pros: Silly family fun with a creative set, musical numbers and lots of laughs.
Cons: The ending runs out of steam and may lose the interest of younger audience members.
FacePlant Theatre have put a serious issue at the centre of a gloriously silly hour-long piece of theatre aimed at adults and children of all ages. Our unlikely hero is 17-year-old Billy, whose cantankerous love-interest has set him the seemingly impossible task of retrieving 7000 rubber ducks which are adrift on the ocean in order to win her love. I think she’s trying to give him the elbow.
Billy sets out on his odyssey in a tin-bath boat, collecting ducks and meeting a range of characters along the way. Fans of BBC’s Blue Planet might be aware that in 1992 a shipping container really did spill a cargo of 7000 rubber ducks into the ocean, and while this show is full of make-believe, the plastic filling the sea and affecting animals is entirely real. FacePlant Theatre’s mission of highlighting for children the importance of looking after the oceans is impossible to fault, and they have some fun with it along the way.
The Vaults can be a damp and dingy venue, more suited to dark and edgy club nights, but the cast succeed in bringing lightness and laughter into the space. The script is packed with witty wordplay, and there’s plenty to amuse the adults in the audience. True to the message, the set and props are made of recycled rubbish, which gives the whole production a sense of playfulness. The huge blue whale made of plastic bags who sings a jazzy song about how he couldn’t tell when he was swallowing rubbish is marvellous, if rather sad.
The versatile cast play a range of characters and demonstrate lots of skill with quick changes, a range of voices and well-physicalised characters. The opera-loving sea-gull Alberto gets some of the biggest laughs, as does Scuzzy the rock ‘n’ roll polar bear (the North Pole is the coolest place on earth, obviously). Musical numbers with good harmony singing carry things along nicely, although the venue’s sound system could do with a bit more volume.
The story takes a gratuitously surreal turn towards the end, with the introduction of a bearded lady from South Carolina who becomes Billy’s new love-interest. It feels as though the writers have run out of steam, leaving the ending felt a bit incoherent. There were gasps of laughter at one point when a boy in the audience shouted out ‘this play feels longer than an hour!’ – and he may have had a point. Having said that, with the audience filled with children there’s a pleasant and relaxed family atmosphere. A very enjoyable way to spend Sunday afternoon with the kids.
Author: Alice Bounce, Maxwell Tyler and Owen Jenkins
Director: Christa Harris
Producer: Alannagh Cooke
Box office: 07598 676 202
Booking link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/one-duck-down/
Booking until: 18th February