by Xana Marwick.

Birdsnest Theatre Tour to 31 May 2015.
Runs 30min + activities.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 March at Z-arts Manchester.

A Mole hole containing a mountain of skill and interest.

Birdsnest Theatre refresh the invisible friend idea with their new piece for 3-6s. A 30-minute play is followed by a period for imaginative artwork, young audience members being guided by the actors (Manchester’s Z-arts had gone further, with a facilitator helping pre-show drawing for those who so wished in the café).

The idea of invisible friends has recurred in young people’s theatre. Alan Ayckbourn’s 1989 play for young people, developed from a work for adults, notably developed the idea in a menacing way.

There’s no sense of threat here. Both Xana Marwick’s story and the co-directed production unroll gently, encouraging the young people mainly seated on the cushioned floor to feel involved. It’s a story, and Geraldine Heaney, who might seem to older audience-members one of the characters (it would be Mole, if she were), sets matters going. For the young, though, she is another in the line of story-tellers who take them without question into the imaginative world where boxes and simple props become part of a temporary reality.

We’re invited to visit Mole’s home, but not introduced to him directly. There’s a reason for this. He’s the imagined friend of young Wilder, and the piece takes-on an individual aspect by placing ‘reality’ with the invisible friend, taking us as part of Mole’s world to visit the Wilder child. The adventures which follow are simple and clear. After imaginative flights of fancy, they end by combining Wilder’s imagination with the physical reality. The prospective journey to Mole’s home is measured out in tape, stretching circuitously through the audience, till Wilder decides to put-off making the journey till tomorrow and falls gently asleep, as during a good bedtime story.

Heaney’s sympathetic Narrator and Mike Fitzpatrick’s gentle musical contributions – as well as such effects as voices heard indistinctively talking in a nearby room – enhance Tessa Parr’s Wilder, a performance catching in depth yet without a hint of exaggeration a child’s keen optimism along with moments of puzzlement as new challenges arise, to be solved. No wonder this Manchester audience responded with keen imaginative participation to the creative work following the show.

Narrator: Geraldine Heaney.
Wilder: Tessa Parr.
Musician: Mikey Kirkpatrick.

Directors: Beth Van der Harn, Emily Austen.
Composer: Chris Preece.

29 Mar 11am & 2pm Useful Vision (Skylight Room 3 The Beacon Westgate Road NE4 9PN Newcastle-upon-Tyne* 0845 604 8491 telephonetext 07544 301166.
31 Mar 12.30pm & 2.30pm Subscription Rooms Stroud 01453 760900
2 Apr 3pm Marine Theatre Lyme Regis 01297 442138
3 Apr 11am & 2pm Dorchester Arts Centre 01305 266926
4 Apr 11am & 2pm Salisbury Arts Centre 01722 321744
6,7 Apr 11.30am & 3pm The Egg, Theatre Royal Bath 01225 448844
8 Apr 4pm Stamford Arts Centre 01780 763203
11 Apr 11.20am & 3pm Stratford Circus East London 0844 357 2625
12 Apr 11.30am & 2.30pm The Junction Cambridge (J2) 01223 511511
15 Apr 11.30am & 2pm Norden Farm Arts Maidenhead 01628 788997
19 Apr 11am & 2pm Landmark Theatre Ilfracombe 01271 324242
24-26 Apr Fri 10.35am & 2.05pm; Sat-Sun 11.05am & 2.35pm Polka Theatre Wimbledon 020 8543 4888
2 May 11am & 2pm Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (Mill Studio) Guildford 01483 440000
6 May 10.30am & 1.30pm Square Chapel Halifax 01422 349422
9 May 2pm & 3.30pm Junction Goole 01405 763652
10 May 11am & 2pm Cornerstone Arts Didcot 01235 515144
16 May 2pm Diss Corn Hall 01379 652241
26, 27 May 3pm Waterman Arts Centre Brentford 020 8232 1010
31 May 11.30am & 2.30pm Waterside Arts Centre Sale 0161 912 5616

* 29 M arch performances organised by Useful Vision, a charity working with visually impaired children and their families.

2015-03-28 09:52:42

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