Ready, Steady, Go! is a simple tale of a little girl who finds her mum’s old mountain bike, and together they play out its story. But with signature panache and a sprinkling of magic, the Polka Theatre makes this visit to a garden shed into an epic, imaginative adventure, discovering the Alps, competing in a bike race and taking a captivated family audience along for the ride.
Writer and director Peter Glanville pitches the show to perfection for a young audience. Aimed at 2-5 year olds and at 40 minutes long, it’s just the right length. It’s simple but glitteringly creative, and is paced brilliantly from the off. A young girl named Sofia (Jennie Eggleton) explores the old boxes in her shed, pulling out clues about what is to come. The tiny spectators are quickly enthralled, intrigued by her wonderful, multi-sensory interactions with mundane items, which become amazing through imagination, sound, light, shadow and movement. As they eagerly crane their necks to discover what she will reveal next, Sofia finds an old mountain bike, and her Mama (Marta Carvalho) relates the tale of the time she rode it in the Navad 1000 cycling race across the Swiss Alps.
The story is beautifully brought alive by the two actors. Eggleton is totally engaging as young Sofia, and Carvalho, who is Portuguese, brings an exciting new level of engagement as she seamlessly introduces foreign words, complementing themes of journeying abroad and different ways of understanding. Both actors impressively use their full bodies and facial features to really emphasise the sense of what’s happening. Treated with Polka magic, dust covers and plastic become snowy mountains and storms, a bike wheel transforms into the moon and stars, a bike pump and a snack become musical instruments, and anything becomes possible within Verity Quinn’s aesthetically engaging set design. It is enormous fun as the audience join in, cheering team Mama along.
The content of the tale is pleasantly educational, introducing us to a cycling competition, the many countries that unite to participate in it, and the incredible landscapes that the cyclists pass through. Fabulously quirky music from Rex Hora, based on the electro-pop style of German band Kraftwerk, is brilliantly upbeat and gives pace to the race action. But the star of the show for me is undoubtedly Joe Hornsby’s outstanding lighting design, which simply but incredibly effectively changes an everyday studio into so much more. A tiny head torch creates giant shadows on the wall; the mountain air itself is revealed by a spray of water, whilst the stars reflect from a wheel onto the ceiling and we are moved to a different space entirely. It’s truly stunning.
This lovely idea of the ordinary becoming extraordinary feels creative and enabling, inviting little ones to look at the world in a different way using all their senses, but also offering them ways to do so. And at the end we look at Mama in a different way too, having seen her past life and achievements. She might not have finished the race, but she’s undoubtedly a winner. Get your little ones along to the Polka Theatre as soon as you can, to have fun cheering her on!
Written and Directed by Peter Glanville
Designed by Verity Quinn
Music by Rex Horan
Lighting Design by Joe Hornsby
Ready, Steady, GO! plays at Polka Theatre until 27 March. Further information and bookings via the below link.