THE TEAR THIEF
adapted from Carol Ann Duffy music by James Hesford..
Royal Exchange Studio St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 29 December 2012.
Runs 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 December.
A production to bring tears of joy.
Even by the Little Angel’s high standards The Tear Thief is exceptional. It’s a fortunate generation that’s in the 3+ range and within geographical reach of this production.
Every ingredient in the spell-binding piece, which played to a silent, intent young audience, is magnificent. The most purposeful, story-oriented Poet Laureate there’s been (Carol Ann Duffy, who’s overrunning the Exchange right now, with her Rats’ Tales in the main auditorium) provides a spare, yet firmly written story, pre-recorded by Juliet Stevenson with a creamy-toned voice that never lets beauty of sound interfere with clarity of event.
Little Angel Director Peter Glanville employs a range of puppetry around the two prominent characters. There’s the globular figure of the Tear Thief herself, facial features suggesting various emotions at various angles, often with a sense of curiosity or wonder as she collects people’s tears, colour-coding them to stockpile on the moon, and the young girl who goes from cosy domesticity to the world-ending tragedy of losing her dog.
With its keenly wagging tale, the tiny canine’s also an admirable example of puppet-designer Jan Zalud’s intricate work. Claire Harvey and Lowri James are expressive puppeteers – expressive, that is, through the puppet characters, while being black-garbed and discreetly anonymous themselves, acting as manipulators but also sympathetic reactors to the emotional state of the characters they have in hand.
If one paradox of puppetry is how literally wooden acting can be so humanly moving in its abstraction from an individual psychology, making the character a reflection of different observers’ individual responses, another is how theatre where puppets contribute so much, can incorporate so much from other elements – James Hesford’s music, much of it played live on ‘cello or violin, creates dreaminess or urgency, resonating with the mood, while Simon Plumridge’s set offers three-storey homes that open onto their inhabitants’ lives, while the Thief floats poetically in on the moon. Someone deserves credit for the lighting contrasting the interiors with the nocturnal setting.
This is theatre that can develop a young person’s emotional landscape, helping it find confidence in itself. It should be revived as soon as possible.
Puppeteers: Claire Harvey, Lowri James.
Musician: James Hesford.
Director: Peter Glanville.
Designer: Simon Plumridge.
Puppets: Jan Zalud.