by Hans Christian Andersen adapted by Norwich Puppet Theatre.
Little Angel Theatre 24 Dagmar Passage N1 2DN To 7 April 2013.
11am & 2pm.
Run s 1hr No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7226 1787.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 April.
All good, but sometimes too much of it.
Norwich Puppet Theatre throws just about every technique it can find at Hans Andersen’s magic tale. Particularly ones involving light and projections. There are shadow puppets, seen through and projected onto a screen (at the start an actor’s finger wagging beneath a piece of stone found in the company’s home makes a witch’s talking face). This Witch’s cloak is empty, opening out to become a projection screen itself, as is the soldier’s drum. Three shadow dogs, identified by the size of their eyes, peer out from the trees inside which they live.
There are no string-pulled marionettes. But there’s a Bluebird flying on a rod, a glove puppet and royalty made out of wigs and foreshortened body clothing worn by performers Seonaid Goody and Paul Preston Mills as they lean against horizontal surfaces to create puppet-scale monarchs. Apart from their puppeteering they intervene in the action, Goody especially providing contrasting, well-characterised voices and sounds.
For a lot of the time the invention speeds the story along as a soldier meets a Witch. By himself, he cannot match her power, but he outwits her to take not just the wealth she helps him find in three trees, guarded by dogs with eyes of increasing size as the coins become more valuable, but the Tinderbox she wants for herself. A dog with saucer-sized eyes is a puppet with eyes made of saucers, a sign of the humorous style of invention.
For about two-thirds of the story, it works well, swinging along in a lively fashion. But, just as young attention-spans (the piece is billed for 4+) might want, if not a break, at least continuing clarity, the piece goes into fussy business over the king and queen, unimportant characters except as parents seeking to prevent their princess daughter being snaffled by a soldier aided by magic dogs. The humour isn’t funny beyond its opening moments and clogs-up the story. It also throws the emphasis very much on human performance rather than letting matters be led by the puppets and attendant theatricality.
The ending recaptures the directness characterising the majority of this Tinderbox.
Performers: Seonaid Goody, Paul Preston Mills.
Director/Designer: Joy Haynes.
Technical Designer: Serge Busby.
Designer/Animation: Alison Harvey, Suzie Hanna.
Sound: Phil Archer.
Puppets: Iain Halket.