THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN
by Tim Webb.
Oily Cart Theatre Royal Festival Hall (Blue Room, Spirit Level) Belvedere Road SE1 8XX To 4 January.
11am & 2pm no performance 1 Jan.
sold out 2pm 27 Dec, 11am 30 Dec, 3 Jan.
TICKETS: 0844 875 0073 (transaction fee £2.75)
www.southbankcentre.co.uk (transaction fee £1.75).
then Tour to 14 February 2015.
Runs 1hr No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 December.
Always encouraging, ever entertaining, Oily Cart once again explores childhood experience with great sensitivity.
Outside the main performing space, a simple room transformed, 3-5s play happily with shoes as parents (or teachers, carers and responsible adults) sit around until Oily Cart’s cast plod in, dressed in big, bold designs that suggest an innocent friendliness, and sporting some outlandish footwear, including a diver’s flipper and a metal bucket.
None of them, though, has matching footwear, and the first way the young audience members help is in sorting out pairs of shoes. Just as well, for who should tootle along in her old boot of a car than the Old Woman who lives in a shoe. She’s clearly from Scotland, where well-shod feet are important most of the year, and she’s collecting footwear for her many children at home.
Where we follow her, a circling, singing procession that makes its way into the main performing space. With the two tall revolving units which will turn to reveal a woman asleep and the Old Woman’s broad at home – miniature shapes appearing in groups like pantomime characters to be gleefully detected by the audience – a carpeted pathway and Jack Knowles’ colourful lighting, it’s hard to realise this is a functional South Bank space rather than a magical environment.
Performers experienced with Oily Cart’s founder-director Tim Webb and his skilled way with theatre that’s accessible and delightful but never patronising for the very young, know how to encourage audience members to take part, judging the point where hesitation is a prelude to willing involvement and when holding-back is a sign of real reluctance. They also accommodate adult involvement, while ensuring the essential pulse stays between performer and the young.
Lavender and apple scents increase the positive sensory relationship with the world, while both sleeping woman and the Old Woman’s children are helped, giving a sense of social responsibility and personal satisfaction to the young visitors through their active involvement. Never more than when the story comes to a peaceful domestic resolution and the collected shoes become babies’ beds, the audience given a chance to rock them asleep as the opening pile of ill-sorted footwear is put to benevolent use.
Performers: Susannah Austin, Griff Fender, Lewis Lloyd Henry. Ellie Griffiths.
Director: Tim Webb.
Designer: Claire de Loon.
Lighting: Jack Knowles.
Music: Max Reinhardt, Lewis Floyd Henry.
Musical Director: Max Reinhardt.
Choreographer: Vicki Hargreaves.
Mechanical sculptor: Nik Ramage.
Associate director: Rachel Betts.
13-17 Feb Tue-Fri 10.20am & 1.30pm; Sat 11am & 2pm Warwick Arts Centre (Studio) Coventry 024 7652 4524 www.warwickartscentre.co.uk
20-31 Jan Mon 4.30pm; Tue 1pm; Wed 10.30am & 4.30pm; Thu 10.30am & 1pm; Fri 10.30am & 4.30pm; Sat 10.30am (4.30pm Sat 24 only) Clwyd Theatr Cymru (Emlyn Williams Theatre) Mold 0845 330 3565 www.clwyd-theatr-cymru.co.uk
3-7 Feb Tue-Fri 10.30am & 1.30pm; Sat 11am & 2pm Gulbenkian Theatre Canterbury 01227 769075 www.thegulbenkian.co.uk
10-14 Feb 10am & 12.30pm Minerva Theatre Chichester 01243 781312 www.cft.org.uk
Some performances sold out or nearly sold out at most tour venues.