adapted by David Wood from the books by Sam McBratney music & lyrics by David Wood.

Tour to 16 October 2010.
Runs 55min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 May at Rose Theatre Kingston-upon-Thames.

Participatory version of books on stage.
It is, for a start, a matter of size. Plays for 3+ don’t generally come nowadays on a big picture scale – even if they are derived from picture books. Theatre for the very young is more likely to be small-scale and closely interactive, something different from the moments of audience participation included in David Wood’s stage version of Sam McBratney’s books.

Most productions today wouldn’t ask three or four-year olds to sit on rows of seating for adults in a large auditorium. Kingston’s Rose at least allows a variation from this, with its open arena at the auditorium’s front, where audience-members often sit on cushions and which at times became almost an infants’ palais de danse in the course of this 55 minute production.

There were keen young joiners-in at the invitations of Lucy, guide and friend to the Nutbrown Hares, Big and Little. Emily Altneu’s unflagging smiles and enthusiasm takes the action through the seasons covered in four separate McBratney books as Paul Sockett and Abbey Norman, faces peeking through the body-length Hare costumes, move with innocence through the year.

Anita Jeram’s coloured illustrations from the books are finely invoked by Susie Caulcutt’s picture-book set. This is a meadow with tree and gate, an idealised picture of a friendly English countryside that is rarely found these days. It is, deliberately, not so much a place to visit, but the fields and woodland next door to imagined rural homes; clean, tidy and beautiful in all its seasonal colourings.

Sunlit by day, moonlit at night, brightly summery and golden autumnal in turn, before quite spectacularly, to young eyes, becoming coated in flurries of snow, this setting is the visual representation of the parent-child trust and love both stated and assumed in the play’s world of discovery and friendship.

There are more imagination stirring, and stylistically exploratory examples of theatre for the 3+ age range. But in its warm, family-friendly realism and visual literalism this certainly caught the mood of the Kingston young.

Lucy: Emily Altneu.
Little Nutbrown Hare: Abbey Norman
Big Nutbrown Hare: Paul Sockett.

Director: David Wood.
Designer/Costume: Susie Caulcutt.
Lighting: James Whiteside.
Sound: Gareth Owen.
Musical Arranger/Supervisor: Peter Pontzen.
Movement: Emma Clayton.
Puppet Co-ordinator: Brian Herring.
Assistant sound: Peter Eltringham.

2010-05-31 17:04:42

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