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Review: PEA, online

The LIving Record Festival

The LIving Record Festival As night falls and the lamps go on, Nod at the Fox theatre company invite us to experience an remarkable modern fairy tale; an epic adventure using puppetry - not exactly to infinity and beyond, but definitely to the end of the bed and back. Tiffany is on her way to visit her new step-family, and as a fairy tale specialist she is convinced that this is not going to go well. Snow White, Cinderella and the rest – they’ve all suffered under the regime of a new stepmother and clearly it will be the…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A witty and totally epic bedtime adventure, exquisitely performed as a captivating contemporary fairy tale for the whole family.

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As night falls and the lamps go on, Nod at the Fox theatre company invite us to experience an remarkable modern fairy tale; an epic adventure using puppetry – not exactly to infinity and beyond, but definitely to the end of the bed and back.

Tiffany is on her way to visit her new step-family, and as a fairy tale specialist she is convinced that this is not going to go well. Snow White, Cinderella and the rest – they’ve all suffered under the regime of a new stepmother and clearly it will be the same for her. No wonder she is on edge and doesn’t want to get in the car! But when she spends the night at the new house and can’t sleep, she finds herself embarking on an intrepid quest to find the pea in her bed that’s making her uncomfortable. Her exploration allows her to understand the truth about her newly extended family.

This witty and hugely playful production, created by Eden Harbud and Sam Williams, is great fun for children and adults alike. It beautifully intertwines imagination and reality using fabulous puppetry, atmospheric lighting and a carefully crafted soundscape, which together create a beautifully intimate storytelling environment.

From the start, there is a peculiar disconnect between the audio and the visual, as the characters communicate through gestures, while a separate voiceover relates the narrative; but this subtly places us in the crossover space of real life and make-believe in Tiffany’s story.

The puppets themselves, designed by Blythe Brett, are terrific. Tiffany is a beautifully crafted artwork, but there’s fluffy fun to be had with the fuzzy bedbugs, blown up to giant proportions under her magnifying glass. Then an exciting underwater adventure sees Tiff and her Memory Foam friend miniaturised, swimming all around us in goggles and scuba equipment. Some of the characters are represented really simply, perhaps just by a finger, or a glove, which is highly enabling for an audience who might want to be able to re-enact the story for themselves at home. They are all expertly characterised by performers Eden Harbud and Jennie Rawling using modern humour and dialogue, which adds a twist to the classic fairy tale format.

The set and props are deceptively simple but very inventive, converting everyday objects into unexpected items, playing with scale and devising new performance spaces. Meanwhile, ingenious lighting uses simple lamps to set new and varied scenes. It is particularly clever in highlighting different aspects of the journey using shadow puppetry. The sound design is fashioned from multiple pieces of interesting music, seamlessly interwoven to help create the changing atmospheres as we travel from scene to scene.

PEA is a funny, clever and charming tale with a quirkily atmospheric style. It’s a hugely enjoyable show for children and adults alike, and having seen it online I can’t wait to see it live on stage one day.

Created and devised by: Eden Harbud and Sam Williams
Performed by: Eden Harbud and Jennie Rawling
Voice Actors: Phoebe Gilderdale, Eden Harbud, Jennie Rawling and Sam Williams
Puppet and Set Design: Blythe Brett

PEA is available online as part of The Living Record Festival 2022. Further information and bookings can be found here.

About Mary Pollard

By her own admission Mary goes to the theatre far too much, and will watch just about anything. Her favourite musical is Matilda, which she has seen 14 times, but she’s also an Anthony Neilson and Shakespeare fan - go figure. She has a long history with Richmond Theatre; in Marketing, as a tour guide, archivist and volunteer, but is currently having fun volunteering at the Polka Theatre, which makes sense as she is ET's specialist in children's theatre and puppetry! Mary insists on now being called The Master having used the Covid pandemic to achieve an MA in London's Theatre and Performance.