by Alison Duddle based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen.
Tour to 13 April 2013.
Runs 50min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 March at Little Angel Theatre London.
Finely-judged piece that relates Andersen to modern childhood.
One helpful indication of quality in work for young people is what happens when a writer or director decides to incorporate modern elements into a traditional story. If it’s clangily inappropriate the likelihood is the whole piece is superficially thought-out. But if it illuminates or enriches the story, the piece is probably being presented with understanding of what makes the original tick.
That’s the case with Horse and Bamboo’s adaptation, for 4+, of Hans Andersen’s story about the emperor who has everything, and, of course, wants the one thing that cannot be bought: the song of the nightingale. For a time the bird comes to him, but it can’t be held down and soon a mechanical substitute is manufactured, more satisfying for palace staff who have to bother about dirt and loose feathers.
Mechanicals substitutes are old technology; what H&B’s young ruler gets is an iNightingale – wonderful entertainment, as compulsive and ultimately unsatisfying as any computer game, until the inevitable ERROR message flashes up. It’s about this point that the Emperor, used to receiving presents he almost instantly discards, begins to take some trouble finding the real nightingale for himself.
If the nightingale opens his mind it metaphorically opens the window, as he listens, plays with, then looks again for the living creature. The rest of the time, he’s shut-in with his own mind, with the palace window firmly shut while he plays with his toys – until he finally sets off to rediscover the living creature, his final break with a life being waited-upon, a step towards maturity.
The company’s usual performance elements are strong as ever, creating a sense of wonder around gently comic episodes, respect for all characters, the wonder of nature as the shadow-puppet version of the emperor sets-off through the words and fields, and a varying but always sympathetic musical score from Chris Davies and Sarah Moody. Puppeteers Aya Nakamura and Mark Whitaker maintain the pulse of the story, while the slow achievement of the search for the nightingale is contrasted by the onscreen flashes of instant sensation, Alison Duddle’s production beautifully combining these elements.
Cast: Aya Nakamura, Mark Whitaker.
Director: Alison Duddle.
Designer: Bob Frith.
Lighting: Christine Eddowes.
Music: Chris Davies, Sarah Moody.
Animators: Christina Eddowes, Daniella Orsini.
17 Mar 2pm Mill Arts Centre Banbury 01295 279002 www.themillartscentre.co.uk
19-21 Mar Aberdeen Arts Festival
23 Mar 4.30pm King’s Lynn Arts Centre 01553 765565 www.kingslynnartscentre.co.uk
24 Mar Diss Corn Hall 01379 652239 www.disscornhall.co.uk
26 Mar 4.30pm Berry Theatre Hedge End 01489 7999499 www.theberrytheatre.co.uk
2-3 Apr 11.30am & 3pm The Egg Bath 01225 448844 www.theatreroyal.org.uk/the-egg
4 Apr 1.30pm Swindon Arts Centre 01793 614839 www.swindon.gov.uk/artscentre
5 Apr 2pm Leighton Buzzard Theatre 0300 300 8130 www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/leighton-buzzard-theatre
7 Apr 2.30pm Hazlitt Arts Centre (Exchange Studio) Maidstone 01622 758611 www.www.hazlitt artscentre.co.uk
13 Apr 7pm The Groundlings Portsea 023 9273 7370 www.thegroundlings.co.uk