EMERGENCY STORY PENGUIN
by John Hunter.
Dep Arts and Slung Low Tour to 26 April 2015.
Runs 1hr No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden at Z-arts Manchester.
Underwater, over ice: a world of adventure for children.
One minute you’re in a Manchester (or Liverpool, or Doncaster, or south London) arts space, the next you’re being whisked-off towards the South Pole in a submarine. Or you will be if you can help sing loud. For song powers this sub, and stories are its mission. The stories that help create individuality and build a sense of identity.
So any creature’s extinction, its story untold, lessens the world in which we live. Enter the Emergency Story Unit, ready at a moment’s notice to save a penguin isolated on a melting ice-flow in Antarctica. We join the mission in its submersible, not passengers but auxiliary crew, using our lungs and believing in ourselves, in a post-Wizard of Oz way, because of the qualities pre-written on our identity labels.
The only one to suffer a crisis of self-confidence is our guide, Lady Grace, though as the piece develops its own story, she gives us confidence we can see her through. There’s an art to guiding a 5+ audience, giving the impression they are making their own decisions – or, that they are choosing to assent to decisions. Both John Hunter’s script and performances in this Dep Arts and Slung Low show help achieve that.
In particular, Lisa Howard’s Lady Grace, indefatigable and inextinguishable if at times less than imperturbable. She greets everyone outside with military formality, leads the singing that powers the sub, then is overcome by self-doubt – acquiring the one label associated with a negative quality. But she overcomes problems with the sub, leading us out to the penguin. This creature is first seen as an image, then met in Louise Wright’s incarnation – a creature responding to help, if not literally unflappable.
Around the sub, then brought into it, is a bird seeking shelter, which is also threatened by a shoal of jellyfish (Lady Grace’s pet hate), literally rocking the boat. We mariners fight back, our own rocking eventually ensuring underwater stability.
Such audience involvement (a better term than ‘participation’), empowers at it entertains in one of several recent shows inventively opening-up new theatrical styles and techniques for young people.
Lady Grace: Lisa Howard.
Penguin: Louise Wright.
Dorylia: Ebony Feare.
Director: Alan Lane.
Designer: Barney George.
Lighting: Alex Johnston.
Sound: Matt Angove.
Composer: Heather Fenoughty.
Film: Daniel Rollings.
Puppets: John Barber.
13-14 Mar Fri 5pm; Sat 11am Unity Theatre Liverpool (sold out) 0844 873 2888 www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk
6-10 Apr 1pm, 3pm Mat Mon, Thu, Fri 11am Cast Doncaster 01302 303959 www.castindoncaster.com
22-26 Apr Wed-Fri 10am & 1pm; Fri 6pm Sat, Sun 11am, 1pm, 3pm (Wed-Fri 10am & 1pm sold out The Albany Deptford 020 8692 4446 www.thealbany.org