by Sarah Cope
My daughter and I are always keen to review children’s shows at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington. An intimate space, meaning that kids are close to the action, means that those hard to please seat-shufflers are more likely to engage with the production. Indeed, we managed to get front row seats and such was the physically energetic nature of the show that we felt a little too close at some points!
Four actors take the parts of the mice, the guitar-playing hedgehog, the rapping squirrel (my personal favourite), the wise rabbit and the delusional mole, who falls in love with the moon and tries to bring it down from the sky to play with. As you do.
My almost-six-year-old was I think a little perturbed by the physicality of the play, and told me she didn’t like the mole character, though couldn’t specify why. I had a look around and she wasn’t the only child who was nestling into her parent for comfort, so it could be that the cast need to tone down the squealing and cart-wheeling just a notch.
Audience participation was encouraged from the start, although the children weren’t very forthcoming. They may have been overwhelmed by the high-octane antics, although the cast tried in earnest to engage them.
The show’s publicity boasts that the songs are very catchy, and this is indeed true. Why else could I be later found impersonating a squirrel, scampering up York Way, singing “It’s so beautiful and so brii-iight!”, much to my daughter’s embarrassment?
I did have more to say about this play but unfortunately the squirrel squirted the audience with a huge water gun and the ink of my notes ran somewhat. Take your waterproofs. And don’t sit too near the front!
Bringing Down the Moon, suitable for age 3 and over, is at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington until January 2.
by Natalie Bennett
First published on Blogcritics
Passionate, polished, sexy, sophisticated, energetic and thoughtful – these are adjectives that I don’t use often in reviews, yet they all can be entirely deservedly applied to Be Good Revolutionaries, which opened last week at the Ovalhouse.
The phrase “devised by the cast” in the programme struck fear into my heart when I read it – some truly excruciating nights at the theatre have such origins – but this is a production that has not the slightest feel of being patched together.
The storyline, about the collapse of a family living in the forest, largely cut off from the world, waiting for their father, a revolutionary, to return, is tight and strong, without being overneat. Seldom has the fact that both families and revolutions destroy individuals been so well presented.
And the production is tightly and effectively directed by Georgina Sowerby and Jon Lee, with an original, lively set (designed by Christopher Lawley) that even harnesses the power of smell through a shredded bark “floor” (which also makes a grave).
The cast – Anna (Juliet Prague) and her three children, Emilia (Laura O’Toole) – the dutiful one; Red (Francasca Dale) – the sexually frustrated rebel, and Curly(Alex Britton) – the cossetted lone male in the household, do a fine job, and when they’re joined by an injured soldier (Liam Clarke) and the spirit of Dark (Citlalli Millan), an apparently forgotten fourth child, the in-the-round stage, is ably filled with powerful emotions.
Prague and Clarke present one of the sexiest, most powerful and utter non-cringe-inducing sex scenes that I’ve seen on the stage, and Millan, in an almost non-speaking part, manages to powerfully haunt the stage while remaining invisible to the other actors.
If there’s a weak part of this show it’s the music – particularly the sung parts, which were difficult to follow – but the priestess-like figure (Rebecca Thorn) who provides most of the music does introduce a universalising element to the character’s tragedy, and the instrumental music worked well.
The subject matter makes it difficult – it would be a real sellling job to get a mainstream theatre audience to a show like this – but in terms of quality, this is a production that would sit perfectly comfortably in the West End.
See it now if you can, in case it doesn’t make the move…
Be Good Revolutionaries continues at the Ovalhouse until June 23.