Pros: A funny, heart-warming show with masterful puppetry.
Cons: It’s really hard to find any negatives but we would’ve loved it to be a little longer.
My eight year old daughter and I were very excited to be back at the iconic Little Angel Theatre in Islington. Finally the chilly sunshine had arrived but the cosy haven of a truly little theatre was still a very warm welcome. The joy of Julia Donaldson’s books have been a mainstay of her childhood; the books with glitter on every page. With a recommended audience age of 3-8 years, I was interested to see if that fateful day had come when this type of show would be too young for her.
We entered amidst an excited young crowd to an auditorium transformed; strings of lights, streams of bunting and a traditional big top stage created a ready made circus. While bantering and jollying along with the bubbling onlookers, three engaging and energetic performers sidled down the aisle to the stage from where they conducted a warm up for all. You’ll be cheering, clapping and limbered up, ready to begin.
The story is a charming tale of a mesmerizing mermaid whose dulcet tones draw the attention of Sam Sly (hilariously played by Phil Yarrow), the greedy host of a travelling circus who puts pound signs before people. As the months roll by, during which the poor mermaid is grounded in a tiny fish tank in between performances, she dreams of returning to Silversands with the help of her new friends. To escape an unhappy life though, maybe you don’t always have to think on your feet…
The beautiful Bunraku style puppets are expertly manipulated by dynamic and charismatic puppeteers, full of joy and fabulous wit. They’re slick and instinctive. With expansively expressive faces, Lizzie Wort and Samantha Sutherland impart so much personality into the puppets: with the slightest tilt of the mermaid’s head as she hears the choking call of her seagull friend or a slump in despair as the rapacious ringmaster guffaws and refuses once again to set her free.
The book itself isn’t incredibly long but this fun adaptation never feels like the fleshed out parts are just fillers. There are catchy songs, sung with gorgeous harmonies. A favourite seemed to be Sam Sly’s big number; ‘Money is my Raison D’etre’. There is also a scene reminiscent of the ‘Under the Sea’ sequence from The Little Mermaid which is so clever, rhythmical and joyous with dancing clams and a crustacean chorus.
From young to old, the audience loved the whole show. There are many genuinely funny moments alongside the sweetness of friendship, good overcoming evil and the full and brimming, caring heart that runs through every Donaldson story.
My daughter loved it but complained it was too short. At a neat fifty minutes though, it’s the good length for this age group. Oh for her to be three again so I could enjoy taking her to these heart-warming little adventures for years to come!
Author: Julia Donaldson with illustrations by Lydia Monks
Adapted by: Samantha Lane and Barb Jungr
Booking Until: 22 April 2018
Box Office: 020 7226 1787
Booking link: www.littleangeltheatre.com