by Viktor Rydberg adapted by Greta Clough.
Little Angel Theatre 24 Dagmar Passage N1 2DN To 16 March 2013.
Runs 45min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7226 1787.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 March.
Fabulous fable and fun.
You saw it here first – or could still, just. Then, after two performances in the Little Angel’s ‘Firsts’ season of new puppet-based work, Tomten will tour in late autumn 2013. And probably after that. It’s a delight for 3+, built round a Swedish figure who looks like a kind of inverted Father Christmas, the red material spiralling above his head in a huge, distinctive hat.
Unlike Father Christmas, he’s a man for all seasons. His white-bearded, benign features look at the farm where he visits the creatures nightly. Unseen by humans, he’s sensed by children’s imaginations.
Siggi Lindal’s production is deftly performed by three energetic puppeteers, who enter into the spirit of their charges, providing animal sounds with human temper; sheep turned homeward by their sheepdog with the disappointment of children called in from play by parents, or hens’ scrabbling excitability. Two giant pigs provide broad comedy as they scoff in their trough, while there’s an elegiac quality to the tired old horse – an actor in a horse-costume, the nearest the show comes to pantomime but the opposite in its impact, as shadow-puppets show the same creature in youth and the prime of equine life.
The sense of time and life, of the seasons ever-changing yet ever-returning, adds up to a mystery with a repeated refrain from voice-over narrators Robert Demeger, poetic and considered, and Carl McCrystal, more brisk and practical.
Tomten’s affinity with the land and animals, his sense of the wonder of creation and cyclical change and inability to reason it out, reflect the intensity and wonder with which young children perceive the world around. And if Tomten risks becoming lost in speculation, the farm cat, a manipulative society lady very pleased with herself and who enjoys teasing Tomten, will always drag him back to practicalities.
With its variously-sized puppets, some rough-hewn (balls of wool for sheep), yet detailed where it’s necessary, with humour and stage poetry, there’s a freshness to the visual and presentational style which makes for gratitude to the Esmee Fairburn foundation for supporting this company’s development and this delightful three-quarters of an hour.
Puppeteers: Greta Clough, Mark Esaias, Tom Larkin.
Narrators (voice-over): Robert Demeger, Carl McCrystal.
Director: Siggi Lindal.
Designer: Cherry Truluck.
Lighting: Phil Hewitt.
Sound: Roberto Cavazos.
Puppet design, Tomten: Caroline Bowman.
Puppet design, Animals: Greta Clough.
Assistant designer: Alberta Jones.