by Sarah Richardson adapted from Theresa Heskins’ adaptation of Dodie Smith’s novel.

New Victoria Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 28 December 2013.
21, 23, 24, 27, 28 December at 11am, 1pm, 3pm no 3pm performance 24 Dec.
Runs 40min No interval.

TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 December.

A genre of their own, the New Vic’s Tale Trails have become a delightful part of the Christmas theatre scene.
This is the fourth Tale Trail for 3-5 year olds linked to the New Vic’s main Christmas shows. The coupling combines the contributions of technical specialists, also working on Artistic Director Theresa Heskins’ main-house production, and the understanding of how very young people respond to theatre brought by director Sarah Richardson from the New Vic’s Education Department.

They create a dramatic experience in which a couple of dozen young people become involved imaginatively and physically: what is achieved in the story is achieved, it seems, because of this audience. A key part of the art-concealing-art is the seamless movement from play-activities in a specially built environment, through the arrival of a character from the tale, into a world where the young people already feel comfortable.

This year it’s a definite trail, the New Vic’s studio subdivided into more locations than usual – including a room in London, a roadside, a farm and a parked van.

It’s a tail trail too, as we set off to rescue Perdita’s purloined puppies, abducted for felonious fur-coat making by the evil, if unseen, Cruella De Vil.

So we join the aural telegraph of the Twilight Barking before treading the road to Suffolk with Naomi Felton’s welcoming yet worried dalmatian, both guide and in need of advice. As always, the two-member cast includes one consistent character who invites and encourages young audience members on the way, asking questions, prompting suggestions, helping give audience members a sense they are part of the story, perhaps even making it happen.

Meanwhile Luke Walker is this year’s performer of everybody else, relating in a friendly way to Perdita, as she encourages us to accept the people we meet – or in the case of whichever Baddun brother appears, helping foil his incompetent efforts as Cruella’s henchman.

The dynamics doubtless alter between school performances and those, listed above, for families where there are small sub-groups and more adults – also enjoined to join in. Of course the story is simplified and reduced, but this Tale Trail builds on its predecessors as a fine imaginative experience – and a splendid introduction to the Dalmatians’ story.

Perdita: Naomi Felton.
Other characters: Luke Walker.

Director: Sarah Richardson.
Designer: Laura Clarkson.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Composer: James Atherton.
Costume: Lis Evans.

2013-12-21 14:21:04

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