Category Archives: Theatre

Why we love magic suitcases, rockets and quarks

Today my two kids and I went to the Unicorn theatre, a venue we regularly visit for its wonderful seasonal shows like Nosferatu,  its modern versions of classics like A Thousand and One Nights and its generally fun shows for audiences as young as toddlers.

I decided to take both my children (aged 4 and 8) after checking the theatre’s website which indicated that the show was in its S category, i.e. suitable for 4 to 7 years old. In my experience, the Unicorn has always been accurate in terms of age range, but on this occasion, maybe I should have checked the poster more carefully since it clearly said 5+.

LifeSuitcasesPoster

Don’t get me wrong, we all really enjoyed ‘The secret life of suitcases’ but there is no doubt that my 4 year old missed some of the show’s subtleties.

Larry, the protagonist, is a diligent office worker whose world seems to revolve around work, and work only. From time to time Larry’s colleagues come and knock on his door, but they know that whatever they offer, his work will always come first, until he receives a rather mysterious suitcase. This suitcase is like a magic trigger which will take Larry on a journey away from his desk and from his usual duties, even if he is originally quite puzzled because he suddenly finds himself not so ‘busy-busy-busy’.

LarrySuitcasesLeaves

Ailie Cohen, who is one of the puppeteers and part of the creative team behind The Secret life of Suitcases, is a master when it comes to performing Larry’s routine. She also excels at mimicking his surprise and confusion. Once he opens the magic suitcase and the bright green leaf is out, there is no turning back. Larry will have to deal with a cascade of adventures, taking him on distant shores, as well as through the sky. He will meet Quarks, fluffy looking creatures quite aptly described by my oldest ‘fixers of the universe’.

QuarkSuitcases

 

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but I can tell you that the return of Larry to his office is a joyous rather than a studious finale. The brown tones and classic leathery furniture of his office testify of his former life, but we are given proof that he has finally decided to embrace rather than fear chance, play, and adventures as they come.

LarrySuitcasesTeeshirtsTrees

If your children love rockets, aliens, or boats, you’re in for a real treat with this charming story. Do not be surprised if they ask you to make a quark, a rocket or a magic suitcase as soon as you get home. To help you, the creative team kindly provides these tutorials so take out the glue gun, have ago and enjoy! And if you’re still in doubt, watch this trailer which also gives a glimpse of the great work of sound designer-composer Niroshini Thambar.

 

 

 

 

Who are these groovy elephants in my house? I blame the Elephantom!

In 2013,  the National Theatre created a new show for the Shed, a place where we had already seen a brilliant version of Romeo and Juliet.  Because we’d really enjoyed our experience in this venue, I was a bit sad that the busy festive season meant we could not see the Elephantom. At the time, I remember seeing the bright blue elephant on posters around town and thinking how joyously cheeky this giant pachyderm looked.

The show is based on Ross Collin’s book the Elephantom that I refrained from reading before the show. Why? Simply  because I  did not want us to have any expectations. That being said, it became clear that we were part of a minority once in the London New Theatre since most of the children around us not only knew the story very well, but some had even brought their favourite toy elephant(s)!

This show revolves around a little girl whose house becomes haunted by a big fat elephantom. At first, because her parents seem too busy and too self-absorbed, she is delighted to have a new companion. However things degenerate quickly and the elephant’s tricks start  to get her in trouble. Her parents, who are obviously incapable of seeing the elephantom, can only notice the havoc it causes and blame her. The family’s well-oiled morning routine is impeccably rendered by the live music and the actors’ impressive choreography. As a result, it is both a shock and a delight when things start to unravel as the elephant tries to pour tea over the mother’s head or steals the parents’s toasts. But the worst for the little girl and the best (for us anyway) is still to come since the elephantom invites his buddies for a crazy party which turns the house upside down!

The Elephantom at New London theatre

 

This fiesta had my children dancing on their seats to the tunes of Mc Hammer’s Can’t Touch This and Dee Lite’s Groove is in the Heart and  there were many other kids who, like them, could barely refrain from joining the four giant elephants dancing around the theatre!

The second part of the show, when the little girl gets her grandmother to help her deal with the increasingly disruptive and fast growing elephantom, was a little bit nebulous for my four year old son. He did not seem to understand why she was looking for a shop offering ghost removal services, or how the box she was to take home was going to help. My older daughter however loved seeing the little girl fly and jump over obstacles carried by the multi-talended actors/puppeteers.  She was full of questions about the making of the puppet and, once at home, we enjoyed watching this video showing the making of the show, the rehearsals, and the work that the actors have put in. And of course, since then we’ve been re-enacting the crazy disco and pretending we are big and clumsy elephants!

I can’t help but wonder but how my children did not even notice that there was barely any dialogue. Anyone (regardless of their language ability) could see this show and enjoy it thanks to Adam Pleeth’s live music, the brilliantly animated puppet and the magic character of this story. For another (happy) take on the show, read Sarah McIntyre’s post after her visit at the Shed, and expect at least another couple of posts about elephants on this blog in the near future.

Three little pigs at the Little Angel Theatre

This week in the UK teachers are on strike, so we’ve decided on our free day to go and see a new version of one of our favourite stories The three little pigs at the lovely Little Angel Theatre in North London.

We have several versions of this traditional story at home and I thought that we would all enjoy this new twist that includes balloons and a not so scary wolf.

This show really is an impressive one man show. With very few props but his very special huffer and puffer, Danny Schlesinger manages to engage the children and to re-tell the classic story of the three little pigs and the  big bad wolf. Using his marvelously twisted balloons, many facial expressions and mimics, and a great soundscape&music, he had my kids laughing and even helping to blow the houses down! The final ‘pop’ is funny and far from the more cannibalistic ending of the traditional tale.

Parents and children will rediscover the story together with  delight and enjoy it anew in this vibrant and comical new version. A great show by circus Ridiculoso!

For those who want a taster, here is a short video.

 

Additional resources for parents and children:

  • Parents who want more information on the origin of the story and its many versions can trust Heidi Anne Heilner’s impressive website.
  • Those interested in having an on-the-go version may want to check out this app.
  • Activities abound online but I like in particular these colouring pages, and these ideas for activities, including brown playdough.
  • We like pigs in this house so if you’re like us read Florentine and Pig have a very lovely picnic, reviewed in the excellent blog Playing by the book here. We recently attended a reading by Eva Katzler, the author and had a great time!