Thursday, 28 September 2017

REVIEW: Book story at Little Angel Studios

Little Angel Studios are tucked away in an old community centre in a back street in Islington but like its sister venue, Little Angel Theatre, a few streets south, it offers a full programme of daytime shows aimed at small children from 5 years up. Any show that excites young children to appreciate live performance and encourages them to be creative is to be applauded.

This production from visiting company, Monstro Theatre, goes one step further and encourages children to read books and visit libraries for creative inspiration. The creative mind behind the production is Ben Glasstone who has co-written the story, composed the music and directed the show. Monstro are pioneers of puppet musicals and this production use a combination of character puppets and animated books in the hands of three puppeteers to tell the rather unimaginatively titled Book Story.

The character puppets of Brian and his father and the girl at No 278 are beautifully made and very effective, coming to life at key moments to touchingly explore the relationship between a parent and child in the important bedtime reading ritual. I would have liked to see more of these puppets in the show. The main characters are the books in Brian’s library that come to life when the humans are asleep or away from the place. These simple animations are done with a face on the book cover and a single arm. While this works, I would have liked to have seen a bit more animation within these puppets.

The script is simple and relies heavily on corny jokes and puns for the laughs. Each book we meet has a joke within it; books by Cliff Hanger, Hugh Dunnit or Lucy Elastic or Dicky the dictionary or MC the master catalogue. The central character is 1001 big ideas, known as the Big I who knocks the Book Story into the withdrawn box and then regrets the act. In the best sequence in the show Big I decides to venture out of the library into the outside world "under cover" and travels by tube and umbrella. As Cliff Hanger notes, "that book has got spine". This adventure is charmingly bought to life by a large puppet made of clothes and a delightful small version. This also enables the character to interact with the audience full of young children to seek assistance and trigger fits of giggles.

The music is simple, light, catchy and cheerful and adds to the theatrical
experience. The three performers create each character with a different voice Brian, a northerner, Big I with a lisp and Dicky, superior.

This is a touring production that will visit 15 venues in the South England during October for daytime performances. It is cleverly set with four pieces to create the bookshelves and counters of the library and mini stages for the puppets. It is aimed at children under ten and if you are Parent I urge you to take your child to see it, to experience the joy of books and theatre before the grip of I phone and IPads takes hold of your child's imagination.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★
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