by Anthony Browne adapted by Rachel Barnett.
Polka Theatre (Adventure Theatre) 240 The Broadway Wimbledon SW19 1SB To 15 February 2014.
Runs 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 8543 4888.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 January.
Fantasy flight with an animal brings home points about people.
Hannah seems a happy girl, lying in her coat on her bed, telling us enthusiastically about her love of those gentle giants of the jungle, gorillas. She loves everything about them, although she’s never seen one live. That would mean going to the zoo which hasn’t happened because young Hannah, in Rachel Barnett’s adaptation, for 3-5s, from Anthony Browne’s story, needs Dad to take her.
And Dad arrives home just as Hannah is expressing her approval of male gorillas looking after their families and finding what she may, when older, call quality time with their children.
At present, childhood optimism and trust keeps her happy and hopeful at the evening ritual of being daddy’s hat and coat stand when he comes home preoccupied with the work in his case.
Hannah’s disillusion starts, aptly, on her birthday upon discovering the gorilla he’s bought her isn’t a real one but a small soft toy. Disappointment almost crushes her till magic or imagination takes over and the little gorilla reappears, enlarged as a puppet operated by Phil Yarrow – the fatigued Dad operating the conscientious forest father.
The puppet swings her through a nocturnal landscape. As they make their way to the zoo, Laura McEwen’s set opens from the straight lines of the bright but monotonous house upon a moonlit night. Side panels show caged orang-utan and chimpanzee, before Hannah and friend fly off to a restaurant and cinema.
It’s here humour comes in most emphatically, though how much the intended audience will find in old film titles that have been monkeyed-about-with is uncertain – or in the style of cinema music and trailers being copied.
More immediate is Hannah’s final happiness and what – even if she grows-up to be a zoologist – she’s really looking for now, the attention and affection, clearly there but hidden too long within his briefcase, of her father.
Roman Stefanski’s briskly efficient production is well-played by Yarrow as the decent but pressurised parent, while Ceri Ashcroft gives a bright, sympathetic and ultimately moving portrayal of the child who feels but doesn’t consciously realise what she needs from Dad.
Hannah: Ceri Ashcroft.
Dad: Phil Yarrow.
Director: Roman Stefanski.
Designer: Laura McEwen.
Lighting: Chris Randall.
Composer: Julian Butler.